Movie Review: ‘Man Underground’ Is More Human Drama Than Sci-Fi…And That’s OK

Willem Koda is reclusive and a tad socially awkward. He worked as a geologist on a project for the US government, and during his tenure encountered extra terrestrials. Now he speaks to groups with like minded interests, although there are  some who would refer to him as a conspiracy theorist, based on his personal accounts about the existence of aliens and the role of the government in covering it up.

Willem intends to turn the story surrounding his alien encounters into a film, and enlists his one true friend, Todd, to help him in this endeavor. During a one of his routine daily meals at the local diner, Willem meets a young twenty-something waitress named Flossie. They hit it off rather well despite Willem’s awkward disposition, and soon become friends. this relationship seems even more fortuitous as Flossie is enlisted to act in Willem and Todd’s film.

As time passes and the three move further through the production of the film,  something deeper seems to adversely affect Willem on an emotional level. He also begins talking with increasing frequency about a trip he must take to Washington; a trip for which he keeps mum on any details. Is his knowledge of the dark secrets at the core of the government’s alien coverup the contributing catalyst for his downward spiral? And what is the true purpose for his trip to Washington?

Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine were quite the dynamic duo on this film, as they co-wrote and directed  Man Underground. What they present us with is a film that is steeped in human drama, but has a slight science fiction undertone. This film doesn’t have to lean heavily on the presence of extra terrestrial theories or even the E.T.’s themselves, as this film doesn’t intend to play out as standard sci-fi fare.. The story relies, rather successfully, on authentic human interaction and relationships. The characters are well written and become appropriately developed as the path of the film unfolds. Viewers will experience a plethora of different emotions throughout, since at times it can be funny, melancholy, tragic, hopeful and uncomfortable…not necessarily in that order. At the core of this film it’s all about the evolving relationship of three friends. Like I said before, its more about real human drama than sci-fi…but that’s OK with me, and it should be OK with you.

I don’t think more genuine performances could have been given if this were a documentary. The three leads in the film were so natural it didn’t seem as if they were acting. I remember having seen George Basil on the Netfilx series, Flaked, but no I feel the need to go back and watch other performances he’s given. As Willem, Basil is quite an astute individual, but is also uncomfortably aloof. He really just kind of exists in the skin of this character rather than playing him. Of course the same could be said for the performances given by Andy Rocco, as Todd and Pamela Fila, as Flossie. Each of these performers seemed to take something from within and let it come o life in the form of their respective characters. Fila gives Flossie an incredibly endearing quality, that makes it completely understandable as to why someone like Willem would open up even the slightest bit to her. And Rocco displays a sense of happy indifference, through his portrayal of Todd. He seems unaffected by societal conventions and is happy to live life in the company of a few good friends. Even if it is very few…or two.

The visual appeal of this film is that it didn’t have to be extravagant in it’s sets and locations. The fact that it is shot in ordinary locales gives it realism and accessibility. This story could have been happening in your town…or my town for that matter. One interesting aspect would be the use of some props and set pieces that could be seen as antiquated or obsolete by viewers. Things like table top AM/FM radios, tube televisions and the circa 1990 Motorola cellphones that Willem and Todd are seen using.  It’s only when you see Flossie talking on a modern smart phone that it illustrates a distinctive generational difference between she and her two new fiends.

All in all this is a really well made and also very well acted film. There are slight hints of sci-fi elements, but it is not a true genre piece. The film plays out more like a clinic in the portrayal of authentic human relationships and the corresponding emotions. There are no abductions, ray beams, chases with unmarked black sedans or the “men in black” come to whisk away any with knowledge of government coverups to be found within the confines of this films narrative structure. There  ar, however, engaging characters and a good story. 8 /10


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