Written by James Rodrigues
Opening on an Arthur C. Clarke quote, the first moments posits that, whether or not humanity is alone in the universe, the answer is a frightening one. That opening informs the unfolding film, as it approaches the big question through the personal journey of Carl Merryweather, played by Michael Selle. When he was 10 years old, Carl claims to have experienced an alien encounter while out with his dad. As his 40th birthday approaches, Carl returns to the location where he made contact, believing the “Skyman” shall return.
As we see Carl preparing for the arrival, stocking up on motion detectors and digging up a powerful magnet he hid, it’s clear he isn’t acting on some whim. This is something he’s thought about for a long time, acting with a contingency plan in mind, advice which was given by his late father. Michael Selle captures the drive and determination of the character, but also brings alive the vulnerability he works to hide. He’s long felt like an embarrassment to his family, but cannot help how he feels, certain that the alien encounter did happen. In spite of this, Carl is desperate to know whether his childhood encounter was actually real, and see this as his one chance.
Amidst the questions brought up by the premise, what’s welcoming are the moments of humanity. Be it the interactions which sell the established relationships, or Carl fondly reminiscing on his mother’s attempts to prettify their container, these elements ground the story, helping make these characters feel all the more real. Carl’s sister, Gina, may not share in her brother’s beliefs, seeing his proclamations as a cry for help, but is always there for him, and Nicolette Sweeney does wonderfully in portraying this. Faleolo Alailima ably plays best friend, Marcus, who’s there to support Carl, no matter what.
At one point, the story takes Carl to visit a UFO fest, intent on asking questions. This element could’ve felt like a needless diversion, but while he gets made fun of by YouTubers, he finds peace among the place of such commodification, as he realises he isn’t alone in his beliefs. It’s lovely to see him get some much-needed validation he has long searched for.
Providing the original score are Greg Hansen, Don Miggs, and Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe it’s due to the combined efforts, but the result is a mixed bag. When it plays into the mystery, feeling rather alien in its composition, it works so very well, but the attempts to pluck at the heartstrings don’t have the desired effect. Although, the country twangs fit the locale well.
Written and directed by Daniel Myrick, best known as one of the creators behind The Blair Witch Project, he repurposes familiar elements from his 1999 phenomenon to also work within the context of this tale. The faux-documentary style brings out Carl’s story very well, as talking heads give an insight into how others perceive him, but the documentary crew themselves feel distant, to the point they’re almost non-existent. A crew member chooses to exit the production at one point, but it feels like a tactical reminder the crew are still there, as the questions have dried up, and they’re just there to serve the films camera style. There are occasions when the camera is asked to be turned off, or taken into another room, but that’s forgotten about rather quickly.
It must be said that Myrick builds upon the mystery well, as you’re left to wonder what direction the film will take, but doesn’t rest upon it to keep viewers attentions for the 92-minute runtime. Driving the story is the relationship between the main trio, sold by the charming chemistry shared between performers, keeping you hooked in the hopes it’ll turn out alright for them. Like Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, this is a story less about the titular being, but the humans we follow, and it’s a success in that regard.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Skyman opens in Drive-In Theatres on June 30th, and is available On Demand from June 7th. Give it a go.