‘The Brother from Another Planet’ is a silly yet subtle 1984 science fiction film alluding to the immigrant experience. While it depicts the obstacles of assimilating to a new world, it also includes an interesting array of characters that also struggle with fitting in. This movie is today’s Throwback Thursday, a column where ScienceFiction.com looks at sci fi classics.
John Sayles, an independent filmmaker who got his start working for Roger Corman and writing genre scripts including ‘Piranha,’ directed the movie. Sayles also wrote the original screenplay that would eventually become ‘E.T.’ and served as a script doctor on ‘Apollo 13’ and ‘Mimic.’ After receiving the MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant, Sayles used the money to partially fund ‘The Brother from Another Planet.’
Joe Morton (‘Eureka’, ‘Scandal’) plays the Brother who escapes from his own planet and arrives on Earth… at Ellis Island of all places. Physically passing off as human with the exception of having three toes, the Brother finds his way to Harlem. He’s unable to speak but can certainly understand the people he encounters. We learn he has special powers and can heal anything from scraped knees to arcade games.
The Brother learns the ways of planet Earth and the human experience from different interactions with people and with his own escapades involving financial transactions, crime, romance and more. We soon learn that two men in black (played by Sayles and David Strathairn) are chasing the Brother. However, these antagonists aren’t with the government. They happen to be aliens from the Brother’s home planet aiming to capture and enslave him.
The most interesting part of the movie for me is not necessarily the fish-out-of-water hijinks that are pretty entertaining. The Brother encounters so many different people in Harlem who are so keen to open up to him. It’s amazing how much people talk and talk when the only person they’re speaking to is incapable of responding. I suppose no matter what your background, it’s nice to be listened to. Yet these characters have engrossing stories and perspectives. Furthermore, the movie has candid moments when the Brother gains an understanding of the prejudices people harbor. While this is a quirky science fiction movie, it also feels like a slice-of-life character study.
Check out the trailer below and let us know if you’ve seen ‘The Brother From Another Planet.’