Milton lives a quiet life of routine in a small western Pennsylvania town, but finds his day upended when a UFO and its extra-terrestrial passenger crash land in his backyard.
Ben Kingsley takes on a uniquely different role as Milton in “Jules” as an older man beginning to show signs of dementia. As he attends a town meeting, we watch the exasperated faces of the council people as they listen to his repetitive complaints about crosswalks and the town logo. Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris) and Joyce (Jane Curtain), neighbors, have opposite reactions to this man’s signs of decline until at one meeting, his complaint changes: an alien has landed and has ruined his garden. While his daughter, Denise (Zoe Winters), a veterinarian, thinks things have spiraled further out of control, Joyce and Sandy, find that this old man just may be telling an accurate story. Jules, as they name him, is trying to find his way home.
Think of “Jules” as an older person’s version of “E.T.” With as much heart and love, we watch Milton oddly connect with this alien and Sandy along with Joyce help Milton keep Jules a secret. They want to help him rebuild his space ship, the power source a unique aspect of the story, and help him find his way back.
Kingsley creates a character with whom we immediately connect. We know Milton; in fact we may have a Milton in our own lives. We see his regrets as he looks back on life and our heart breaks as we watch the townspeople dismiss him due to his apparent cognitive decline. But there’s humor here as well. It’s a realistic and situational humor that endears us more to this man who sees more of his life in the rear view mirror. Harris and Curtain (I can’t help but think of her in the SNL skit of The Coneheads) balance one another as the three compatriots bond and help one another.
Writer Gavin Steckler delivers a solid story, albeit a predictable one until the end. With Marc Turtletaub seated in the director’s chair, seasoned veteran actors the likes of Kingsley, Harris, and Curtain are allowed an opportunity to give us deeper and more layered performances. Steckler lightly yet profoundly touches upon the intolerance of others who are different while honing in on aging and finding meaning no matter what stage of life we find ourselves.
“Jules” is a beautiful story of tolerance filled with heart and love that just might inspire you to look at your world and others’ in a more compassionate light.
3 ½ stars