You could fill a small starship by now with are-they-or-aren’t-they? movies about people, usually mental patients, claiming to be extraordinary beings, commonly aliens. Remember K-Pax, with Kevin Spacey? Half the episodes of The X Files? Or the TV movie The Girl From Mars? No, you probably don’t remember the latter; it went right to video pretty quickly.
So is he or isn’t he from Mars? You just know filmmakers love to hedge when it comes to that, all way back to Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a bit of a spoiler to know that Martian Child is based on a "nonfiction novel" memoir by science fiction author and classic Star Trek scriptwriter David Gerrold (AKA Jerrold David Friedman) who himself raised a delusional foster child. No, Gerrold wasn’t tragically widowed – he’s a single, gay man. But that detail is one Final Frontier to which this movie doesn't want to take us to, and Amanda Peet is in the supporting cast as John Cusack’s incipient love interest. Pity really, as the homosexual angle, if handled correctly, might just have made Martian Child a little bit less formulaic, although conservative Red State audiences probably would have shot it out of the marketplace faster than a Halo invader. Oh well. Either way, this sentimental stuff doesn’t seem destined for a long duration hovering around cinemas.
Meanwhile do yourselves a favor and check out of the video store the Argentinian bughouse drama Man Facing Southeast (good luck finding it), really one of the best variations ever on the is-he-a-kook-or-an-alien plot. Don’t tell anyone else about it though; would hate to see the Jim Carrey remake.