Another great movie came my way recently. Before I watched it, I knew Martian Child was about a writer played by John Cusack. I guessed that I would like this movie (being a sucker for both stories about writers and John Cusack in general), but it turned out to be even better than I expected.
John Cusack plays David Gordon, a successful science fiction author living under a cloud. His beloved wife has been dead for two years, and he has been isolated and grieving. As a couple, they had planned on adopting a child, but that dream died with his wife. When David gets a call from a social worker about a child she thinks might be right for him, David shows up in person just to say no. Despite his determined non-interest, David begins to learn things about Dennis, the boy the social worker wants him to adopt, and his curiosity gets the better of him. When asked why the social worker thought he would be a good parent for Dennis, she tells him that the boy believes he is from Mars.
We all know that Dennis is going to wind up living in David’s house, at least for a while. What you can’t predict about this movie is what the boy will do and why, and how far David will go to help him. Dennis has a clear understanding of who he is – a Martian on Earth – and that he has to learn how to be human. As a result, David runs into many challenges as he integrates Dennis into his life. He gets advice of all kinds from his sister (who has kids) and his sister-in-law (who does not). He works hard to live with Dennis on his own terms, to support him in his world vision so he can become whole again. His efforts are simultaneously sweet, sincere, and funny. In the end, healing needs to occur on both sides, and eventually it does.
As I would have predicted, John Cusack is at his best as the intelligent but quirky David. What I didn’t expect was the moving performance by Bobby Coleman as Dennis or the beauty of the film as a whole. Dennis is seriously shut down emotionally, and Coleman does a good job of getting across the fear that is just under the surface of his strange habits and beliefs. The director Menno Meyjes enhances this performance through beautiful cinematography that is in complete harmony with the dialogue and plot. When Dennis’s explorations uncover the beauties in the world around him, the shots and scenery fill us with wonder and awe. When David begins to rant about the speed of the Earth around the sun and the sun through the galaxy, the lights outside of the car windows turn into colorful streaks, reminiscent of the blurred stars seen at warp speed. A hyper-reality is achieved, one that is both beautiful and believable.
Martian Child was delightful and touching. Long before I knew how the story would end, I was in love with this movie. The care taken by the director and the many great actors involved shows in every scene and was stunning right from the start. I can’t wait to watch this jewel of a movie again. And again. And again.