Jules – a film about ageing and aliens

August 17, 2023
2 mins read
Start
6/10

Summary

Jules FILM REVIEW

Physical and mental decline isn’t typical subject fodder for movies but ageing boomer GARY STEEL sees merit in a film about getting old.

Screening at independent cinemas from Thursday 17 August.

I don’t picture many young people making the effort to see Jules, a film that uses the unexpected visitation of a friendly alien as a metaphor for dealing with impending death.

Not that it’s a depressing watch, just that in the exaltation of what at the time feels like eternal youth, few want to think about the inevitable because sensibly, they’re putting their energy into living. There’s that, but there’s also the fact that the cast of Jules is mostly craggy old folk, the setting is small-town America, and there are no action sequences.

Billed as a science fiction comedy (what will they think of next?), in reality, it’s one of those sweet slice-of-life dramas that rely on a seasoned acting cast to bring to life some idiosyncratic characters.

Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Daliland) at 79 aptly convincingly portrays Milton, an old chap who lives on his own and has become consumed by the minutiae of life. The film finds him repetitively making identical public submissions at city council meetings, and trying hard to ignore the fact that he’s becoming increasingly forgetful.

When an alien crash-lands in his back yard he’s so discombobulated by the event that he quickly gives up on telling anyone about this remarkable situation, and welcomes the injured, non-verbal alien into his home.

Ultimately, a couple of elderly women – played by Jane Curtin (3rd Rock From The Sun) and Harriet Harris (Desperate Housewives) – who know Milton from the council meetings find out about the alien. From this point, the movie is very much an ensemble cast as the two women get to know Milton and the three characters unleash a lifetime of emotional baggage onto the poor wordless alien.

Much of the comedy and pathos is derived from the fact that ‘Jules’ (the alien, played by Jade Quon) is completely silent, which encourages Milton and the two women to open up about their lives and concerns.

While this is all going on, Milton’s concerned daughter Denise (Zoe Winters) becomes increasingly concerned for his mental health and takes him for a psych test, where the doctor advises that he move into an assisted living situation. Predictably (and understandably), the very independent Milton rejects this idea.

The authorities, of course, are aware of a UFO landing and spend the entire movie searching for “Jules”. (Hilariously, one of the elderly ladies wants to call the alien “Gary”). Somewhat improbably, Milton and the two ladies are the only people who ever see the alien.

While Jules has a lot to recommend it and the ensemble performances are all fine, the central subject has been traversed and interrogated better elsewhere. While it’s a sweet and heartening portrait of an elderly man in decline, there’s something soft-centred about it that prevents it from making much of an impact. But still, it’s an enjoyable watch and hard not to shed a tear or two.

 

 

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Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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