Bleecker Street, 2023
Gavin Steckler / Marc Turtletaub
📷 : Licensed from Shutterstock
Movies and TV shows with heart, positive vibes, and warm messages
Jules follows the unlikely friendship between its title character and Milton (Ben Kingsley, Schindler's List), a widow in his late seventies. Normally, the phrase “unlikely friendship” refers to two characters with differing personalities. I say “unlikely” because Jules is an alien whose spaceship crash landed in Milton’s backyard in Boonton, a suburb in western Pennsylvania. Though initially startled by his presence, Milton eventually invites Jules in, cares for him and assists him in repairing his ship. After initially sharing the news and being met with skepticism, Milton decides to keep it a secret once he develops a friendship with Jules. As Jules gets close to finishing his repairs, Milton must face the possibility that he will either lose a friend or leave his old life behind.
Director Marc Turtletaub’s slice-of-life/sci-fi indie maintains a pretty clear subject matter: the unfortunate ageism that senior citizens consistently face. Often, older adults experience the irritability and impatience of their caretakers. Their opinions and concerns go either unheard or disregarded on a regular basis. Jules illustrates this from the jump, as Milton attends town hall meetings and repeats his same grievance, which the board ignores day after day along with the concerns expressed by other senior citizens. The film illustrates this in a humorous, Groundhog Day style, but the underlying message is still sobering.
For Milton, compounding the frustration from the meetings is his daughter Denise’s (Zoe Winters, Succession) belief that he is showing mild symptoms of dementia. His forgetfulness and misplacing of items in his house worries her, though he insists that it is simply human nature to have such moments. While Denise is compassionate, she also does not take Milton’s perspective seriously, which is exacerbated by her own busy schedule and the fact that no one else can assist her in caring for him.
Another clever detail of the movie is Milton’s fractured relationship with his son, who has moved away, started his own family and cut Milton off completely. Milton admits to Jules that he was not always the best father, and considering his son’s young adult status, he just does not have time to connect. Milton utters to Jules, “He’s busy, and that’s fine; I was busy at his age too.” His comment and the sadness in his voice points out a bleak reality, which is that sometimes senior citizens feel the pain of mistakes that they made in their relationships from many years ago. As their social circles dwindle, they not only become lonelier but never get the chance to repair such relationships. Additionally, they find themselves reconciling the inattentiveness of their loved ones, no matter how hurtful they find it.
Jules serves as a perfect friend to Milton. He does not speak back, cast doubt or attempt to diagnose Milton. Rather, Jules simply keeps him company, sitting on the couch and watching television. Being from another world, he does not have any preconceptions about Milton because of his age, making him the ideal caretaker.
While he is the protagonist, Milton is not the lone example of an older adult in the film. Sandy (Harriet Sampson Harris, Frasier) and Joyce (Jane Curtin, Third Rock from the Sun), two of Milton’s neighbors, endure the same dismissiveness at the town hall meetings. Sandy tries to organize get-togethers, highlighting another unfortunate reality for older adults when a person responding to her flyer has malicious intentions. Often, senior citizens serve as easy targets for thieves, practical jokers and even people capable of violence. Joyce appears focused on the perception of not only herself but the other older members of the community. While she believes that Milton is harboring an alien, she does not want him to make mention of it, as it gives fodder to those who already want to ignore the voices of senior citizens and dismiss them as feeble.
Sci-fi films about alien invasions typically are paired with the action and suspense genres, displaying war imagery and good versus evil archetypes. Jules instead tells an individual story about how a well-meaning lifeform from another planet, through sheer naiveté, offers the compassion and company that many younger adults do not exhibit for the generations that preceded them. While the movie is about aging, Jules at times felt reminiscent of the late 1980s drama Rain Man. Tom Cruise plays a self-centered bachelor connecting with his autistic-savant brother, whom he just learned existed, in order to gain a larger share of their inheritance. After he is initially irritated with his brother, he learns how to foster a relationship with him through patience, generosity and respect. The bond Milton and Jules forge does not explicitly teach younger adults how to be better providers, but their friendship conveys how deference and compassion can be the most important elements of caretaking.