With his descending spaceship heading straight through Earth’s atmosphere. Our Brother from Another Planet has no choice but to crash land into the Hudson River. Losing half his leg, he emerges shaken alongside Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty. This alien visitor is humanoid in appearance and luckily looks like any regular black guy from Earth. He doesn’t speak our tongue, completely mute, we never get to hear his name. To all that meet him, he is The Brother (Joe Morton).
The Brother does have two different telltale signs that mark him out from the human race. His three clawed toes maybe pretty weird but his magical powers make him unique and an arcade gamers dream. His hands can heal, his hands can become one with electronics. The Brother from Another Planet is innocent, lost and bewildered with his new surroundings. He can hear the voices of the city through its walled infrastructure. It sounds wounded!
Tagline – Welcome to a world of crude beauty… of danger and excitement… of wonders, legend, and imagination… Welcome to Harlem, Brother.
From crashing to the sound of steel pan drums to the intoxicating, frantic beat of New York City. The Brother stumbles with his newly grown leg, working his way through this strange new world. He can’t communicate. He can only learn from experiences. From one situation to another, The Brother wanders into each new interaction with wide-eyed wonder and complete bafflement. Each contact tries to learn who this strange young black man is. He seems harmless, is he lost, who are you? What is your name? With all the interactions, a sort of understanding is strangely met. No one really knows but a mutual kinship is achieved. He’s just a down on his luck brother, lost on the streets!
With the arrival of two strange ass white boys dressed in black and acting in the most peculiar manner. It’s not long before we workout these two Men In Black are bounty hunters. These two oddballs prowl the streets of Harlem, freaky and twitchy. “White folks get stranger all the time!”
The movie plays out like a social commentary on immigration, slavery, poverty and homelessness. The destructive drug problem on the streets and race issues are also addressed. Still, with alls it weighty issues it still features much warmth and humour. Whether it’s people looking out for each other and sharing their home or willing to kung-fu fight for a man you don’t even know his name.
There is a underlying heartfelt message throughout this whole story. Yes it might feature an alien but it’s really a human story. The human story of people dealing with life in Harlem and the heart of the city. Lookout for all the wonderful interaction Brother has on his journey. A monologue from a Rastafarian or the young guy on the subway car showing his magic trick and telling stories. Brother’s powers makes a young arcade girls dreams come true. The innocent time spent with the cute looking little boy to the understanding between his caretaker friend, Hector (Jaime Tirelli) at the arcade. Best of all, the four friends filled with banter and shooting the shit in the bar. So many little priceless moments.
A few things
- The Brother from Another Planet (1984) is written and directed by New Yorker John Sayles. He would later write and direct Chris Cooper in the excellent mystery drama Lone Star (1996)
- The two shifty looking Men In Black aliens are played by John Sayles himself and his friend David Strathairn
- 80’s action guy Steve James from American Ninja is the bar landlord. I just found out today that he played one of the Baseball Furies in The Warriors! Woah!
- Joe Morton gives a fantastic performance, coming off sweet natured, innocent and quirky all at the same time. He’s extremely likeable. You’ll know Joe Morton from two biggies from the 90s. Capt McMahon from Speed (1994) and Miles Dyson from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) amongst many other great movies.
- Jazz music lovers, keep an eye out for the wonderful Dee Dee Bridgewater.
- The card trickster is actor Fisher Stevens from the two Short Circuit films “Number 5 is alive“. Hang on a minute, he’s changed race! hehe
- And keep an eye out for the conspiracy talking Walter in the bar. That is Bill Cobbs from, well everything. He was great fooling around with Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney as the elder security guards in Night At The Museum.
This movie is so much more than the sum of its parts and is well worth checking if you haven’t seen it and it appeals to you. It’s unique, sincere and has a genuine deep message.