two young people lean down and look into a hole or crater
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer

What does the world look like after an alien invasion? This sci-fi dramedy from director Cory Finley (Thoroughbreds, Bad Education), based on M. T. Anderson’s 2017 novel of the same name, offers a nuanced look at just how society might be affected in the aftermath of a takeover. It turns out things may not be quite as postapocalyptic as previously imagined. Adam (Asante Blackk), his mom (Tiffany Haddish), and his sister (Brooklynn MacKinzie) still live in their house, there are just more extraterrestrial-run space stations hovering overhead than usual. Adam still goes to school, but he now learns from an animated alien he and his fellow students see through a cerebral node—and that alien takes every chance it can get to spew propaganda about its species and their governing ideals. 

The film is a refreshing addition to the genre because there’s no huge CGI invasion or epic battle. In fact, it’s original paintings (created in the film by Adam and in real life by artist William Downs) that set the visual tone for the film. Adam’s been documenting every major event from “First Contact” until we meet him in the film, in the year 2037, through his thick brushstrokes bursting with emotion. Even as the aliens try to strip away everything that makes Earth, Earth, Adam uses his art to at least hold onto his humanity. 

As compelling as those works are, though, their depth only makes the visuals of the aliens themselves fall even more flat. The film’s greatest flaw is actually showing the audience its invaders (even though they become a larger part of the plot as the narrative progresses). They’re like flesh-colored, 3D versions of Daniel Johnston’s “Hi, How Are You” alien, slightly too comical and obviously computer generated for the tone of the rest of the movie. But once you get past their appearance, it’s easy to be mesmerized by the film at large, which is a sweeping and heartfelt examination of colonization, voyeurism, capitalism, and humanity. R, 105 min.

Wide release in theaters