Film (1984). A-Train Films. Directed John Sayles. Written by Sayles. Cast includes Caroline Aaron, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Morton and Tom Wright. 108 minutes. Colour.
Where Sayles's exploitation-movie scripts are cynical and hard-edged, the films he directs himself are gentler and also more overtly political. The Brother from Another Planet is the only sf film he has written and directed, and to a degree it gets the best of both worlds, though it has a sentimental streak. The Brother is an Alien, indistinguishable in appearance from a black American – apart from his clawed, three-toed feet and a detachable eye – who arrives at deserted Ellis Island, traditional gateway for immigrants to the USA, and goes to Harlem. There he is the clever innocent abroad, unable to speak but understanding a lot, sharply observing social attitudes of both blacks and whites, fixing machines (he is a healer), getting tough with a Drug trafficker, and being pursued by alien bounty-hunters (one played by Sayles). Like a surprising amount of sf, this is a "to see ourselves as others see us" social comedy. Morton is excellent as an alien among the alienated; the meandering, episodic plot of this low-budget movie is fun. [PN]
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