BRIGHTBURN, US, 2019. Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A.Dunn. Directed by David Yarovesky. 93 minutes. Rated MA (Strong horror themesm Violence).
The title of Brightburn lives up to its name but certainly not in a way that we might have expected. It is not as glowing or as hopeful as the title may sound.
Instead, this is a small science fantasy, a focus on the family, but a family with an enormous difference.
As we watch Brightburn, we might be reminded of the close encounters tradition, or the Roswell tradition and speculations about UFOs, or the body-snatching-by-aliens tradition – and, we might be reminded of those esionage films from the Cold War period, of Russians trained when they were young, migrating to the S US, infiltrating middle American society, waiting for the right time to be activated.
Most of this is certainly not in the minds of the central characters. Tori and Kyle, a pleasantly ordinary couple, are desperate have a child. They are played very genially by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman. They have something like a Superman-Smallvillel experience when, right at the beginning of the film, a small space vehicle lands on their property, a baby as the only passenger. So, nice parallels with Clark Kent as their little boy, Brandon (Jackson A Dunn) bonds with his parents, has numberless photos and home movies taken. Elizabeth Banks plays his mother lovingly-devoted with great zest. David Denman is a hard-working father who bonds with his son, referring to him as “Buddy”.
Who is he really? Why did he come to earth? Will he be another Man of Steel? In a way, he will, but not in the way that any of us, including himself as a child, could foretell.
He is an obedient boy. But his parents puzzle about his not bleeding. We puzzle about his not really showing emotions or weeping. And he is continually drawing a specific develop design in black and red.
His 12th birthday party is not quite a success and everyone notices that he is beginning to change. Is it puberty? Is it something more?
Well, of course, to say anything more would be to reveal spoilers and this is a film which is better seen with successive surprises, twists and plot puzzles – and, it might be said, not a great deal of explanation offered.
Which means, then, that a great deal is about to happen. What will be his parents’ response? How will the sheriff and his assistant become involved? What about the little girl from school that he likes and her aggressive mother?
All this, and more, in only 90 minutes, a fine variation on themes for those who really enjoy this kind of science fiction. And, there are images during the final credits which might delight as well as tantalise conspiracy theorists.
Sony Released May 30th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.