© Neue Visionen Filmverleih GmbH

A Great Place to Call Home (Jules)
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 1 Feb 2024

Directed by: Marc Turtletaub
Writing credits: Gavin Steckler
Principal actors: Ben Kingsley, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jane Curtin, Teddy Cañez, Narea Kang

City council meetings provide a sounding board for communities, and in this small Pennsylvania town it is particularly cathartic for some of its retirees. Not a meeting goes by that Milton (Ben Kingsley looking effectively disheveled, grouchy) does not attend, as do Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris unflappably compassionate) and Joyce (Jane Curtin at her rascally best). But not together, of course. Milton’s comments do not vary, Sandy’s do and, let’s be honest, are more of proactive community suggestions. Joyce just growls her complaints. Milton likes to walk, garden, change the birdfeeder; stickies are stuck as reminders on his refrigerator, and Denise (Zoë Winters) checks in regularly on Dad.

Back to Milton, since his garden is where the spaceship lands and, on his azaleas, no less. He phones 911 emergencies—you can imagine how that call is received—and his daughter’s phone mailbox is full. So, he ignores the spaceship, reporting at to the council meeting instead. Finding the little alien in the garden, concern usurps being scared. He offers various foods, thus learning the extraterrestrial likes apples and, he discovers, is a good listener. Sandy stumbles on Milton’s truth; hanging out together, “Jules” (Jade Quon) is christened. Milton explains to the cashier why all the apples who tells Denise who promptly confronts him, then makes Milton an appointment with a neurologist (Anna George). More or less simultaneously, Joyce gets nosy, Jules starts spacecraft repairs, the National Security Center issues alerts, and Sandy has a frightening incident. The three septuagenarians, allies to Jules’s cause, pool their resources, outwit the young'uns, and take a lift that changes their destinies. With relief.

Nothing is too over-the-top to disbelieve in Gavin Steckler’s inventive screenplay that director Marc Turtletaub delicately shapes into an intelligently humorous, poignantly empathetic, and intuitively respectful film. Its sterling cast’s distinctive, nuanced performances make viewing a pleasure. Quon, stuntwoman-cum-actress, says more through Jules’s expressive eyes than many actors do with words. Christopher Norr’s camera catches every little blink, Ayelet Gil-Efrat edits sagely, and Hauschka’s music rises to the occasion. Jules is, quite simply, otherworldly laugh-out-loud fun, and a petite reminder that humans of any age would do well to respect others whatever their age, or origin. Realistically, we could all do with a bit more magic in our lives. (Marinell Haegelin)

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