Movie Review: Alienated (2015)

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It's Close Encounters of the Marital Kind in this, the second feature film from Uptown writer/director Brian Ackley.

After setting the stage for science fiction in a bravura opening that consists of eerie music, startling sketches, and what we believe is a U.F.O. sighting, Alienated buries the lede until the last act of the movie by transitioning instead into a claustrophobic relationship drama better suited to stage than screen.

A popular indie hybrid over the past few years in films like Enemy, Under the Skin, and The One I Love, while there's obvious potential in the juxtaposition of genres and using the idea of a U.F.O. to make a worthwhile metaphorical statement about romantic alienation, unfortunately this time around, it's stronger in theory than execution.

Heavily influenced by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and heavily consisting of fights that play out in various rooms of a young couple's two-story home over various nights, Alienated is anchored by the award-winning performances of actors George Katt and Jen Burry as a self-centered artist and his long-suffering wife.

Adding authenticity to this chronicle of what mathematically (and thematically) amounts to one hell of a seven year itch between the unhappy couple, the rich, lived-in turns of the actors help bring Alienated back down to Earth when it ping-pongs awkwardly from its dominant mode of Cassavetes style realism to Shyamalan-like New Age.

However even the cast can't save the film from an ending that seems to belong to an entirely different draft of the script or the decision to incorporate a stereotypical blind character with the ability to "see" into the soul of Alienated's insufferable lead.

An ambitious experiment to link and filter a War of the Worlds style narrative through a war between a married couple, even though Alienated winds up feeling like a war of too many ideas, at least we know we can count on Ackley to try and bring something genuinely new and different to the screen.   

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