The Man From Earth Film Review

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I’m going to take the time out of my busy day (snigger) to tell you about one of my favourite films of recent years.

The Man From Earth is a film written by Jerome Bixby, known to me as the writer of four Star Trek episodes: Requiem For Methuselah, an episode similar to this film in plot, Mirror, Mirror, one of the most well-known and commonly regarded as one of the best episodes across the whole franchise, Day Of The Dove, and By Any Other Name.

The central premise behind this film is “What if a caveman from the Upper Palaeolithic survived until the present day?” It’s an intriguing idea, and if you have that as a film concept, you have my attention. This is similar to another of my favourite films, Highlander, in idea (living through history), but very different in execution. I read on the film’s summary page on TV Tropes (where I first heard about the film) that somebody had referred to it as a radio play dressed up as a film (to paraphrase). This is true in a sense, since it seems like it would be more suited to something you’d hear on Radio 4, rather than on dvd or the cinema. However, I think it works well on film, since emotions are difficult to convey through voice and some of the scenes work better on film (such as the scene with the rock relic).

The film’s main character is a man called John Oldman (a pun which is brought up in the film), the long-lived being of the central premise. He is moving away from town without a fuss when his friends find him and throw him a leaving party. During the course of this party, John poses the question previously mentioned. It is treated as incredible (and believed to be a science fiction story idea) at first, but his colleagues get drawn into it and start believing him. This is very much an idea-driven film, in that it is a room of people doing nothing but throwing around different suggestions for the why and the how of John’s slowly unravelling story that he is, at best guess, 14,000 years’ old. And it is truly engaging. You wouldn’t think it could be, but it is. Something I like about this film is that John is essentially presented as being a normal, 14000 year old man. He can’t regenerate or remember every single moment of his long life and all the knowledge he accumulates over the centuries slowly becomes obsolete as more is discovered or proven wrong.

The acting is well done in this film, it may be a cast of relative unknowns but they have picked good people to bring the characters to life. You can see John’s pain as some of the less pleasant ideas hurt him or the viewer can see the hurt John’s immortality story is causing to his all-too-mortal friends. Their reactions and disbelief give you some idea of why he doesn’t tell people what he is.

There are some subtle themes that you may not pick up on upon first viewing, like the way their intellectual discussion takes place to the light of a fire, much like John’s birth time and the way it seeks to educate the viewer on certain religious philosophies (such as be nice to all).

I really wish that I hadn’t read the plot synopsis before seeing the film, as I would’ve loved to have gone in not knowing what happens. I hope I haven’t given too much away to discourage you from seeing this fantastic film. All in all, this is a great film, a wonderful example of why you don’t need a high budget or lots of action and explosions to make an engaging film that you’ll want to see again. I shall be buying the dvd come Christmas.

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