Film Review: Man Underground

Low-budget film about three people brought together by UFO conspiracy theories will disappoint viewers expecting a sci-fi thriller but succeeds as a subtle examination of the human need for connection.
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One-time government geologist and dedicated UFO chronicler Willem Koda (George Basil) has devoted much of his life to exposing a vast conspiracy involving alien contact with Earth's powers that be. His medium is YouTube and his credibility is about on the same level as your average small-town conspiracy nut. Clearly, he's heard all the Mulder jokes. The only people in his corner are childhood friend Todd (Andy Rocco), whose late Uncle Jack was a true believer until his death, and diner waitress Flossie (Pamela Fila).

Since Willem's YouTube videos and sparsely attended lectures have done nothing to stir significant interest in his account of a life-changing encounter with aliens during a top-secret, government-backed mining project, Todd suggests that maybe making a movie would be a better way to get the word out. Aspiring-actress Flossie is just the right combination of eager and inexperienced to think that a part--the role of Willem's long-estranged wife, Tessa--in a no-budget, amateur movie might give her non-existent career a jump start.

First-time writer-directors Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine aim to strike a delicate emotional balance that frequently eludes filmmakers with far more resources at their disposal. Todd, Willem and Flossie could all easily appear one-dimensionally foolish, pitiable and even ridiculous, but their characters are too fully realized to be dismissed so easily. Willem's efforts to disseminate "the truth" is quixotic at best and deluded at worst, but Basil conveys the depth of his conviction and his essentially selfless dedication. He doesn't want to write best-selling books or become a YouTube celebrity—he genuinely believes that the human race is in danger and wants to expose "the truth," as he understands it, about the danger of human-alien contact. Todd and Flossie are drawn into his crusade for reasons that reflect their own insecurities and desire to be part of something larger than themselves.

Man Underground's ending will fail to satisfy some viewers, but it's a delicate and logical conclusion to the psychological journey its characters undertake.

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