Speculative, notional sci-fi, usually the domain of more abstract offerings, aren’t often melded with kids flicks. Thankfully, there were a few gutsy earthlings willing to give it a go.
For UFO is above all a kids flick, albeit shrouded in dialogue and conjecture generally reserved for features ill-intent on confining themselves to one demographic. The form generally works, conflating the divergent tones with an unassailable passion for “what’s out there” that, in spite of what will no doubt struggle to nail an audience, will prove engaging for those, this author among them, who grew up with The X-Files and very much want to know if we are alone in the universe.
If you were unfortunate enough to catch How To Talk To Girls At Parties, you might remember Alex Sharp’s ungainly sophomore-ish creation. Here Sharp plays a likewise ungainly, generally objectionable academic-obsessive Derek who takes his best friends for granted and berates his lecturer in front of the class; Gillian Anderson in her very welcome return to the genre.
Hearing tell of a UFO sighting at the local airport, math-whiz Derek soon determines, well ahead of the Government-types, lead by an always excellent David Strathairn, that the signals jamming every cell tower in Cincinnati are far from random.
Two reliably stock-standard best mates come along for the ride and manage to teach Derek a few important lessons about friendship, and of course tracking down those pesky visitors. As is typical from those flicks we treasured in our formative years (and still do), the two more seasoned performers are regretfully absent for most of proceedings and then largely present through their interactions with Derek.
Missed assessments abound, Government vans straight off the Stranger Things set send a much clearer signal than any extra-terrestrial friends and frightful exposition expounds on scientific concepts and much else the filmmakers should have entrusted the audience to infer or absorb more abstractly, regardless of how familiar we might be with more elusive theoretics.
The scenes where Derek attempts to deduce just what is going on, numerous and by far the best in the film, manage to seamlessly blend the spiralling joy of those Disney-esque characters shouting ‘Eureka!” with the welcomely abstruse mathematics; a very basis of this film’s appeal that many, this author included, will just be expected to roll with.
Opting for a muted end which will recommend itself to fans who will gladly rifle through more contemplative sci-fi and come as a surprise to those expecting a big bang, UFO won’t have the broadest appeal to viewers while more than entertaining that marvellous crowd who hear the likes of ‘Gillian Anderson; sci-fi’ and can reliably be found in the front row.
UFO screened at the SciFi Film Festival