‘Earthbound’ (2013): the Irish film and NOT the video game!

22 Mar

Earthbound posterPremièring earlier this year at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Earthbound is a quirky Irish indie film that is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Written and directed by Alan Brennan, Earthbound is a comedy sci-fi romp starring Rafe Spall as Joe, a timid, unassuming alien from another planet disguised as a human. Living in Dublin, he meets Maria (Jenn Murray), a shy and reserved girl with a really nice apartment. Following his father’s (David Morrissey’s) instructions, Joe becomes interested in Maria as her genetic structure means that she is the ideal mate for him. Conspiracy, awesome special effects and hilarity ensue!

One thing is clear right off the bat: this film has an unashamedly Irish context, meaning that many non-Irish viewers simply won’t get many of the jokes. From national landmarks shooting into space to jokes about work visas, much of the humour will hurtle over the heads of people outside Ireland. That said, the hiberno-centric giggles aside, Earthbound boasts many great one-liners, facial expressions and slapstick that should appeal to virtually anyone with a sense of humour. While other comedic science fiction pictures may rely on self-deprecating sci-fi references to deliver the laughs (lookin’ at you Paul), Earthbound is a witty and smartly funny film.

Intelligence is not saved for the comedy alone; this is an intricately crafted, well made movie that constantly surprises. The story, without giving anything away, is a figurative rollercoaster, as hilarity switches to depression which in turn morphs into the most awesome episode of Stargate never shownLittle throwaway, seemingly inconsequential lines of dialogue and symbols, which are fleeting in their appearance, often times prove relevant later on. For example, a certain allergy to a certain material turns out to be a major plot device in its own right. Earthbound is like one of those magicians who can pull a coin out of your ear: you know it’s logical, but you’re surprised nonetheless.

I mean c'mon, they play Q-Zar. How more Dublin can you get!?

I mean c’mon, they play Q-Zar. How more Dublin can you get!?

It’s clear that the producers were on a tight budget, not necessarily from effects or costumes but from the fact that ‘sponsored by the Irish Film Board’ appears at the beginning, who are notoriously stingy with delving into their coffers. However, what is even more obvious than that is the remarkable level of detail that went into the outfits, set design (Maria’s flat is amazing and I want it) and special effects. Not emphasising the spacey element of the ‘sci-fi’ tag and being (mostly) grounded here on Earth means that the effects are sparse, but well done. The ending in particular has some wonderful chaos happening on screen, it’s a real feast for the eyes.

If there are any criticisms to be levelled at the film, they lie in the characters. Both leads turn out to have science fiction experience: Spall was in Prometheus, while Murray had a casting accolade in the short-lived Day of the Triffids TV series. While the former is charming and portrays the nerdy loner expertly, the latter is less convincing. Bits of clunky dialogue coupled with a simply unbelievable backstory (she spent at least four years at nursing school?! She looks about seventeen years old!) do not ruin her completely but do render her performance a tad wobbly. David Morrissey is an excellent stoic older gentleman, as fans of his Walking Dead day-job can testify to.

I honestly can’t recommend Earthbound enough. Is it the best Irish film I’ve ever seen? If not, it’s bloody close. It makes Veronica Guerin look dire, The Guard look mediocre, and The Commitments look decidedly forgettable, and for that final crime, I shall never forgive it. Regardless, it’s certainly the best sci-fi comedy I’ve ever witnessed. Get up and go see it now!

Simon says: a genuine masterpiece. Loved every second.


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