Skyman is about a documentary crew who investigates tales of alien encounters. Specifically, they choose to follow Carl Merryweather, who saw an extraterrestrial being when he was 10-years-old and is convinced that they are coming back for him, 30 years later to the day. Carl lives in a small desert town where several of the townsfolk think he is off his rocker, though a few others believe that he saw or experienced something unexplainable.
Carl’s best friend Marcus is not only one of the few to entirely believe him, but also one of the only people to not treat him any differently. Carl and his sister Gina live together after her divorce, and she’s working at the assisted living facility, the same one their mom is at while working towards her nursing degree. The crew documents the days leading up to, and including, Carl’s birthday. Are the aliens real, or is it all in his head?
Most moviegoers should recognize the name of writer-director Daniel Myrick as one of the minds behind The Blair Witch Project, which is in my top five favorite horror films of all time. Knowing that, it should clue in the audience of Skyman to the fact that it is not an actual documentary, but a fictional narrative done in the style of a documentary. Calling the film found footage seems inaccurate, as the movie is being released by those involved, and thus it is not found a la that 1999 horror classic. And the term mockumentary implies a comedic slant (mocking means to ridicule or deride). So, I will refer to Skyman as a faux documentary.
“…Carl…saw an extraterrestrial being when he was 10-years-old and is convinced that they are coming back…”
While Skyman does not rewrite the rules of its subgenre, it is an excellent example of it, though not without its issues. For starters, the structure is a bit off. Some 25-minutes in, there’s a flashback to when Carl attended a UFO convention. It took place several months before the bulk of the film and calls into question just how long the main crew has been following Carl. Changing it up so that the crew met Carl there, they hit it off, then they decide to come and document his birthday would make the time jump make more sense, and would strengthen why they chose him as their subject.
The other problem is that the faux-documentary runs a little long. Including credits, the movie is 92 minutes, but some scenes are stretched past their point, or not needed at all. For Carl’s birthday weekend, Gina, Marcus, and he go to these containers turned to homes that they helped make with their deceased father. There’s a fake-out scare when Gina encounters a spider in the bathroom. While it leads to some amusing lines, it is not necessary and feels like filler.
Even with those issues, Skyman is an absorbing and engaging drama. For one, the acting is perfect. Michael Selle, who plays Carl, has a real intense, Michael Shannon vibe about him. And that is a good thing. He’s a bit awkward in conversations with most people, but he is crazy smart (he can “fix anything” electrical or motor-based) and possesses a big heart. Selle plays the mild-mannered man in a grounded way, never going into hysterics or getting angry. It is a believable, lived-in performance that is one of the best I have seen all year.
"…while Skyman does not rewrite the rules of its subgenre, it is an excellent example of it..."