‘The thing I like about you, Barry, is you’re a good listener,’ a bar-room bore – who has just sounded off about the minstrel origins of Mickey Mouse’s white gloves – tells fringe-beard, straggle-haired Barry (Gary Green) before inviting him back to his place to share some smack. It’s just about the only thing that’s possible to like about Barry, and then there’s a sense that he’s not actually listening – just perpetually zonked out, registering only when a debt is owed to him and never when he has an obligation to anyone else. His wife Suz (Chanelle de Jager) is at the end of her rope with him, and he barely acknowledges that they have a son.
Once he’s got high, Barry’s only interest is in getting higher – which leads to him being drawn up into the sky by a flying saucer and subjected to even more intimate invasion than the traditional anal probe. The Barry who returns to the streets of Cape Town is inhabited by an alien passenger, who clumsily pilots his body around observing and then sampling various human activities it plainly doesn’t understand. Moments in Green’s performance reminded me of odd precedents like Eddie Murphy’s human-sized spaceship in Meet Dave and Kyle MacLachlen’s back-from-the-lodge Cooper in Twin Peaks The Return, but it’s a spectacular, idiosyncratic piece of work on its own terms, especially since pre- and post-possession Barry is kind of a stoneface (albeit with a double-jointed jaw) but conveys a lot through body language.
Writer-director Ryan Kruger originally made this as a short (with Green) and it spins out as an episodic piece, touring the low-spots of Cape Town’s night-life with all the expected druggies, male and female sex workers, petty crims, eccentrics and the like … none of whom notice that more is up with Barry than usual. Alien-inhabited Barry is notably a better husband and father, even though he also impregnates a prostitute (Genevieve Tanya Detering) who brings to full term an adult clone of Barry who hangs around as a spare leading man. Some of the film’s tics get tiresome, and the wild ride – as if ET had fallen in with a Gaspar Noe set of characters – is more exhausting than exhilarating, but Green gives a break-out performance and the home stretch is undeniably affecting and perversely uplifting.