'Alienated': Film Review
A married couple deals with relationship issues after one of them spots a UFO in Brian Ackley's domestic/sci-fi drama.
Viewers are likely to be confused by writer-director Brian Ackley's (Uptown) sophomore feature being billed as a science-fiction pic but which rather plays like an American millennial version of Scenes From a Marriage. While this film marking the last screen appearance by veteran character actor Taylor Negron (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Last Boy Scout) delivers an incisive portrait of a marital relationship that has descended into quiet mutual loathing, its lengthy scenes of domestic arguments are unlikely to play well to genre fans. Its title, Alienated, may prove all too accurate.
That this is not your typical sci-fi effort is indicated by the opening scene depicting a drawn-out argument between married couple Nate (George Katt) and Paige (Jen Burry) over whether it's better to use hot or cold water to wash dishes. It's the first of many volatile squabbles in the film, including Paige expressing resentment over Nate's gifting one of his own paintings to the widow of his best friend and, more crucially to the plot, his bitterly complaining when she tells him that she'd prefer to take a bath before watching a video he's shot.
It turns out that the video is of a UFO, or, as he more formally describes it, an "alien spacecraft," that he spotted hovering in the sky. Cue yet more fighting between the two which turns increasingly ugly as the disbelieving Paige reveals her disgust at his being the sort of conspiracy freak who's convinced that the events of 9/11 were an inside job by the U.S. government.
Adding a more surreal edge to the otherwise pedestrian proceedings are the appearances of Griffin (Negron), the couple's blind next-door neighbor who constantly peers at the sky as if sensing something amiss and who, upon meeting Nate for the first time, asks him what he knows about "astral projection."
Even with its brief 80-minute running time, the ultra-low budget film seems padded to the point of tediousness. Although the characterizations feel authentic and the two leads deliver fully lived-in performances, their relationship issues fail to hold our interest and the vague sci-fi aspects feel awkwardly shoehorned in. Alienated's best element is Negron, who in his brief screen time makes a vivid impression, both sardonically funny and uneasily forbidding as the blind man who sees more than he lets on.
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Production: One Way or Another Productions, Fades 2 Black Media Group
Cast: George Katt, Jen Burry, Taylor Negron
Director-screenwriter: Brian Ackley
Producer: Princeton Holt
Director of photography: Donald Murray
Editor: Jay Sacharoff
Composer: Barbara J. Weber
Not rated, 80 minutes