You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


The thinking person's loopy sci-fi movie, "Earthbound" is the story of a young man convinced he's a space alien, as well as a story about how he couldn't possibly be a space alien.

With: Rafe Spall, Jenn Murray, Stephen Hogan, David Morrissey, Carrie Crowley, Ned Dennehy, Aiofe Duffin.

The thinking person’s loopy sci-fi movie, “Earthbound” is the story of a young man convinced he’s a space alien, as well as a story about how he couldn’t possibly be a space alien. As such, it’s likely to have the viewer questioning his or her own sense of reality before ending in an explosion of intergalactic mirth. Though ripe for an American remake, this Irish romp can also stand on its own, thanks to standout performances by Rafe Spall and Jenn Murray, and a smart, pretzel-shaped script by helmer Alan Brennan.

Fifteen years after his father’s death, Joe (Spall) is still waiting for the other shoe to drop: Just before Dad (David Morrissey) died, he told Joe they were both aliens, members of a race that inhabited the faraway planet Zalaxon. Until the rebellion there is successful, Dad said, Joe must hide out, work in a comicbook store and somehow perpetuate their race, but only if he can find a girl with whom he’s at least 90% genetically compatible.

Dad continues to advise Joe from the other side; his hologram appears and speaks sagely whenever Joe runs the family’s homemovies on his old 16mm projector (shades of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El). Joe also believes that intergalactic bounty hunters are after him, and that his toy gun is capable of producing a death ray.

Spall is terrifically deadpan, his Joe a true believer and budding paranoid, but not immune to love; when he discovers the lovely Maria (Murray), who appears to be that elusive genetic match, he confides everything to her, at which point she thinks he’s nuts. She brings in her old psychology teacher, Dr. Webb (Stephen Hogan), to counsel Joe, and his entire worldview begins to collapse.

It does for the audience, at any rate. Brennan’s tour de force is the way he dismantles Joe’s elaborate Zalaxon scenario, to the point that even the character has doubts. Everything suddenly makes rational sense, and “Earthbound” acquires a pathos that places it outside the realm of comedy or sci-fi, turning it into a psychological drama that probes self-delusion and even psychosis. And then, the movie makes another expertly navigated left turn.

Murray and Spall play this all with wonderfully straight faces, allowing the comedy to arise from circumstances that might well evolve around any stranger in a strange land, or even one who just thinks he is. The increasingly dangerous world around Joe is inhabited by characters who justify his sense of impending doom, including Hogan’s Dr. Webb; Vera Ellis (the piquant Carrie Crowley), reputedly an old friend of his father’s; and Mr. Kilson (Ned Dennehy), who gives new meaning to the term “corporate headhunter.”As Maria’s beatnik sister Liz, Aiofe Duffin is her own comedic force field.

The pseudo-high-tech space equipment and faux-cosmic effects are of a piece with the blithe tone generated by Joe’s mission, or delusion. Liam Bates’ music rounds out the topnotch tech package.



Production: A Ripple World Pictures/Paper Dreams presentation in participation with the Irish Film Board. (International sales: Ripple World Pictures, Dublin.) Produced by Heidi Karin Madsen. Executive producers, Jacqueline Kerrin, Dominic Wright. Directed, written by Alan Brennan.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), P.J. Dillon; editor, Barry Moen; music, Liam Bates; production designer, David Wilson; art director, Francis Taaffe; costume designer, Louise Stanton; sound, Barry O'Sullivan; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Jon Stevenson; re-recording mixer, Ken Galvin; stunt coordinator, Donal O'Farrell; line producer, Donna Eperon; assistant director, Paul Murphy; casting, Louise Kiely. Reviewed at Galway Film Fleadh, July 13, 2012. (Also in Seattle Film Festival.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Rafe Spall, Jenn Murray, Stephen Hogan, David Morrissey, Carrie Crowley, Ned Dennehy, Aiofe Duffin.

More Film

  • Midnight Traveler review

    Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler'

    Refugees rarely get to tell their own stories, which means their stories get told for them — often inaccurately and with undue hostility. Lack of resources is one issue, but a lack of stability is another: Asylum-seekers are in a frightening state of limbo, fleeing the imminent dangers of their native countries only to suffer [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings on four dates — a record as the [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. More Reviews Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler' Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’ Mattel Films is partnering with Sony [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content