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Martian Child
cast: John Cusack, Bobby Coleman, Joan Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Sophie Okonedo

director: Menno Meyjes

103 minutes (PG) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by James A. Stewart
The responsibility of raising a child is arguably the most taxing of roles a person can tackle in their lifetime. It can also be the most rewarding. In Martian Child we get to see both sides of the equation - the difficulty in dealing with a child and the reward than comes from paternal bonding when that epiphany strikes and all of a sudden both parent and child understand each other. Of course, many parents out there will argue this is fiction after all.

Loosely based on the David Gerrold novel of the same name, Martian Child has a bright cast with John Cusack (High Fidelity, Say Anything) playing David Gordon, a recently widowed sci-fi author who has developed a bad case of writer's block following his wife's passing. David agrees - with some procrastinating as it was something he and his late wife Mary were planning - to adopt a young boy named Dennis (Bobby Coleman). Dennis is perfectly normal, aside from the fact that he thinks he is from Mars, lives in a cardboard box, and is on Earth to study "human kind-ness."

What follows is a film with mammoth heart. Despite the awkwardness of their introduction, David and Dennis quickly realise they are well matched and identify plenty of common ground and mutual quirks as the film moves on. Director Menno Meyjes handles a workable screenplay very well here and it is the dialogue and interaction between the writer and 'Martian' that really makes the film work. The other cast members are really on the periphery of the story, and Cusack is sound as the loner David. However, he is outshone by the excellent Coleman who brings out much of the empathy in Dennis and his fear of being rejected by David is a brilliant acted under current on which the film rides.

One criticism is that Martian Child can get a touch sentimental and as such loses direction at times. Though, unlike its closest cinematic doppelganger, K-Pax, Martian Child does draw to a satisfactory conclusion, avoiding the irritating ambiguity that befell the conclusion of Kevin Spacey's offering. Despite being a low-key release in comparison with some of Cusack's previous works, this is wonderful story and one of Cusack's best in recent years; a boy who has been abandoned, who fears loss, put together with an introverted author who is facing loss as much as the boy fears the same condition. Together they are happy, it is just a case of them both realising this.

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