Review: The Man from Earth
Director: Richard Schenkman
Writer: Jerome Bixby
Producers: Richard Schenkman, Eric D. Wilkinson
Starring: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, William Katt, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, Richard Riehle, Alexis Thorpe
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 87 min.
So I was cleaning out my hard drive today and came upon a movie that I had yet to extract from a .rar file, The Man from Earth. I didn’t remember downloading it as I don’t usually download movies. I went to the IMDb profile and noticed it had a viewer score of about 8.5 with almost 6000 votes. With that high of a score, it’s pretty certain that the film is at least worth taking a look at. So I extracted the file this morning and began to watch.
Right away, I could see that this was something small and low budget. I recognized several of the main characters immediately from low grade B movies (Office Space, 90′s version of Night of the Living Dead) to short lived sci-fi television shows (Enterprise, Great American Hero). The style and direction has the feel of being a made for TV type of movie. I’ve never been able to express exactly what that style or feel of a movie is, but I’m sure you get the feeling as well and know it when you see it. So now I’m thinking, “ok, this must be some low budget, indie film a director or PR rep wanted me to take a look at for some reason.” Then the story starts.
Wow. The entire film takes place in a single room of a quiet cottage in a secluded area of somewhere (probably mid-west America). A man named John, of about 35 years of age, is preparing to move and his friends and colleagues unexpectedly show up to give him a send off. The man was trying to quietly leave and never look back and the mystery about why he might be trying to sneak away is just too much for his friends to bear, so they start to pressure John to spit out whatever is on his mind. Finally, after being pressed, John tells the truth. He was a cave man; as in, a real cave man; from the cro-magnan era. Needless to say his friends don’t believe him and there isn’t any way to really prove or disprove his story. So instead, we get a fantastic story in a question and answer format that gets ugly and argumentative at times and in others quite fascinating and even heartwarming.
Scientific minds should love the film. As would anyone interested in religion, history or philosophy. It is fascinating as all get out and will leave you thinking about it for days (I assume, as I just finished the film ten minutes ago and already can’t wait to share it with the world). I’d rather not get into specifics because the movie is all about discussion and revelations. What might you ask a man who claims, pretty convincingly, that he has been alive for 14,000 years? This isn’t done in some sort of super natural or overly dramatic way. John is not a vampire. He has some scientific questions and answers as to why he claims what he claims. Who was your father? What was your name? Did you meet anyone famous? Can you die? What was it like living through the dark ages? The bubonic plague? Have you ever had children? The movie could almost literally never end with the questions that could be asked of John and he seems to have a believable answer for everything. Even if his answer is, “I don’t know.” But is John really telling the truth or is he just making all of this up as some sort of hoax or for another good reason? Or maybe he’s just nuts. All of this is pretty irrelevant. If I could sit down and talk with John, it really wouldn’t matter if I believe him, the stroies are FASCINATING.
While I don’t want to unveil my top ten list of 2007 until the Cinecast next week, I can pretty much assure you that The Man from Earth has a real good shot of making the list. As I think on it, does it deserve five stars? From a technical and acting standpoint, probably not. But usually when I get this kind of mental reaction from a film and if I have to debate with myself on whether it should get 4.5 or 5 stars, I usually give the movie the benefit of the doubt and go with five stars unless there is a glaring reason why points should be deducted. In this case, while as I stated, the acting is mediocre and the budget was probably about $15, all of that is irrelevant to the story and the fantastic script. And so readers, what might be the last movie I’ll be watching in 2007, I cap the year off with my fourth and final five star rating for a film this year. The Man from Earth.
POST SCRIPT: I mentioned in the opening paragraph I downloaded the film. This really isn’t like me and after doing some research, I remember now that I had read somewhere or someone had told me (maybe Jay at filmjunk?) that the director and producers of this movie were actually encouraging people to download the movie to spread the word. So I did. The only thing they ask is that if you like the film, tell others and visit their official web site. I’m sorry I can’t provide the link of where I originally read this, but there are some posts in the IMDb discussion board about it and while I’m not comfotable providing links to .torrent sites or illegal downloading sites, I can provide you with a few useful links below. I highly encourage you to check this film out by any means possible.