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K-PAX (2002)
Director: Iain Softley

review by Debbie Moon

A homeless man is picked up by New York police for having no ID - and his excuse is that he's an alien from the distant planet K-PAX. Just another day for psychiatrist Jeff Bridges, right? But Kevin Spacey's mild-mannered, affable alien is surprisingly plausible. He knows a lot of things he shouldn't, he can see ultraviolet light - and his society, which has no lawyers, no marriage and no families, begins to sound rather tempting to the increasingly under-pressure shrink.
   Held for analysis, Spacey starts a quiet revolution in the mental ward, coaxing his fellow inmates back towards normality. But when he announces he plans to depart for K-PAX on July 27th, taking one - and one only - of his fellow patients with him, Bridges suspects that the date holds the clue to his real identity, and the trauma that catapulted him into this state. Can he discover the truth before the day arrives, and his patient is, one way or another, lost for good?
   Well, yes, and no. K-PAX keeps us guessing to the end - and, to an extent, beyond. A sentimental Hollywood ending would have been the easy option, but instead, director Softley delivers a bitter-sweet, ambiguous solution that (almost) allows the audience to have it both ways. Alright, there's nothing here that you haven't seen before; the lunatic as visionary, the kindly shrink in conflict with an uncaring system, the patients who respond miraculously to simple attention. But the scientific detail, such as the electrifying observatory scene, and tremendous performances from two of America's greatest actors, lift the film from the merely heartwarming towards the genuinely memorable. K-PAX isn't groundbreaking science fiction, but it's a hugely enjoyable film well worth a look.
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