Movie Review: The Man from Earth (2007)

Reviewed By Hussein Tehaili

Cast: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, William Katt, Alexis Thorpe, and Richard Riehle.

Director: Richard Schenkman

Synopsis: Professor John Oldman’s (David Lee Smith) colleagues throw him an improvised going away party, and are treated to a fantastical revelation about his past: he hasn’t aged in 14,000 years.
 man from earth

Richard Schenkman hit gold in this low-budget but incredibly imaginative story. This movie is filled with “that guy” actors that you’ve definitely seen before, but couldn’t name if your life depended on it. The movie itself however, is unquestionably first-rate.

The movie starts out with a shot of Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) packing up his meager belongings onto his pick-up truck, getting ready to leave town. He is soon interrupted, however, by the colleagues and friends he’s made in his ten-year stint as a history professor, and they want answers.

Edith (Ellen Crawford), the art historian catches a glimpse of a Van Gogh in John’s truck that’s been signed to a “Jack Bourne.” He brushes it off as cheap replica. Dan (Tony Todd), the anthropologist, finds a seemingly authentic stone-age flint tool used for sharpening spear points. John claims he found it at a thrift shop. A number of other such incidences are paired with the group’s incessant questioning of why John would leave when he’s so close to tenure, and where he’s going.

Eventually, John bows to pressure and submits a theoretical question: “What if a man from the upper Paleolithic, survived until the present day?” The group discusses the question back and forth, each adding their perspectives, drawing on their own fields of expertise. In a room with a biologist, an art historian, an anthropologist, two historians, an archaeologist, and eventually a psychiatrist, the discussion alone is well worth the watch. However, it soon becomes clear that John Oldman was actually confessing that he is that man. He has been alive for over 14,000 years, and the revelations he makes about his life are astonishing.

The film was shot almost entirely in the living room of John’s soon to be abandoned home, using only two camcorders and giving the film its grainy look and feel. Schenkman chose, perhaps out of necessity, not to shoot any flashback scenes of the various experiences in John’s long and eventful life. The film still manages to deliver vivid action and suspense, and it does so more artfully than a big budget studio might have with expensive special effects and expensive sets.

The actors in this film, for the most part, play their roles well. There are, however, several scenes that flopped. Almost all of the jokes John Billingsley’s Harry delivers fall flat and fail to convince anyone that he’s the raunchy and playful character he tries to convince us he is. He is supposed to be a college professor, though, and if that’s direction Billingsley was attempting to take, well we’ve all seen professors fail at comedy but receive applause from terrified students seeking a good grade. Another disappointing performance was delivered by Annika Peterson as Sandy, the love interest. Her performance lacked the emotional range you would expect to see from someone receiving such news from the man she loves. She just seems to accept his story at face value, and her decision to run away with him seems to come far too easy to her. Otherwise, the characters and their reactions, though sometimes surprising, are well crafted and make such a movie possible. If you can forgive such instances of subpar acting, then you will enjoy this movie immensely.

At 87 minutes long, you’ll wish the film were longer. You wont want the fun to stop, but it does eventually, and the shocking finale is the cherry-on-top that makes this film one of the most memorable and enjoyable films you’ll see in a long time.   


1 Comment

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One response to “Movie Review: The Man from Earth (2007)

  1. I just recently saw this flick, thanks to a friends recommendation. Brilliant story.

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