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Landscape with an Invisible Hand Overview: Earth Rules Aliens

Image: Sundance

Based on his premise alone, science fiction fans sure to be intrigued Landscape with an invisible hand. In the film based on the novel of the same name by M. T. Anderson aliens have taken over Earth and conquered the human race. It’s over. They won and we lost. So what happens next?

Directed by Corey Finley (Purebloods) starts there, but very quickly goes beyond the original premise. The film jumps wildly through various connected storylines, each exploring new social contexts and constructs, never lingering too long before moving on to the next. The result is a film that is a bit confusing towards the end, but constantly surprises and entertains.

The reality of Earth’s occupation is first seen through the eyes of a teenager named Adam (Asante Blackk). He befriends Chloe (Kylie Rogers), the new girl at school, and the pair soon start participating in “marriage airs”. You see, the aliens (called Vuvv) are asexual and have nothing like the human definition of “love” in their society. And so they pay to watch people fall in love as entertainment that becomes a lucrative source of income for the couple.

With this idea, modern audiences will probably think they know what’s coming next. Undoubtedly, Adam and Chloe will become ultra-famous, and the lines between what is real and what is performance are blurred, leading to comments about the evils of social media. And while the film does have some of that, it instead takes a dramatic turn in a new direction. The story expands, the stakes rise, and things get even weirder. Later, when you think the film is tied again, it changes again. A new problem, even higher stakes, and even stranger circumstances.

These huge shifts in the narrative are a little distracting at first. It’s almost as if the film deliberately abandoned its previous subtexts, undermining everything that came before it. But when it happens again and again, there comes the realization that in the absence of cohesion, there is cohesion. Perhaps the film means not only exploring all of these various offshoots, but also reflecting an unpredictable, uncertain future in which humans are considered the underclass of this mysterious alien race.

Even if you don’t buy it, by the way Landscape with an invisible hand Dealing with these aliens is undoubtedly beneficial. At first, it seems that the film can keep the mystique of Vuvv and their world. But soon the film goes in the opposite direction, showing us not only the aliens themselves in their full form, but also a lot of other things about them. We’re talking about large scale visuals galore. All this is another ingredient in the film’s strange alchemy, which, again, is distracting, but at the same time utterly mesmerizing.

While the film starts with Adam and Chloe in the lead roles, it ends up shifting the focus much more to Adam, who is supported by Tiffany Haddish’s excellent, uncharacteristically low-key performance as Adam’s mother (Haddish is also credited as producer). There is also a youngest daughter (Brooklyn McKinsey) and this family dynamic is intertwined throughout, adding more layers and complexity to this scenario; warm, down to earth performances also add to this. Chloe’s family consists of a father, played by Josh Hamilton, and a brother, played by Michael Gandolfini, and while they’re pretty much minor characters in the story, they each bring a pleasant and awkward tension to the screen.

It would be very easy to refuse Landscape with an invisible hand because, after all, this film is not easy to categorize. History either fits or doesn’t. It gives you all those fun customizations and crumbs, but it leaves a lot of things at risk. It’s a little funny and creepy, but at the same time bold and dramatic. I understand why some might not like it. However, when the movie ended, I wasn’t bored for a second. The world created and the characters that inhabit it constantly draw attention, in large part because I couldn’t figure out what they would have to go through next or what it would all end up being about. And while it may not work out in the end, just to see the alien invasion story told with such genuine heart and originality, Landscape with an invisible hand worth a look.

Landscape with an invisible hand It premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival. It doesn’t have a release date yet.

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