When John Travolta compares pencils and humans saying that they're all made up of the same stuff, it's not Einstein's relation that came to mind. Rather, the images of Operating Thetans as described in the teachings of the Cult of Scientology (of which Travolta is a member) are invoked. The isomorphisms between the CoS teachings and some of the themes in Phenomenon are a bit disconcerting, but I digress.

Phenomenon is a film about a simple man, George Malley (John Travolta) who begins to see life in a new way after a bizarre experience on his 37th birthday. In a way, Malley is reborn as a man who has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Slowly his capacity for understanding things that were previously beyond his grasp grows. He then begins to grapple with understanding that which has been beyond understanding. However, he has no outlet for his new found knowledge. He is not college educated. The academic world does not take him seriously. Even the government, when they find out about his special abilities, feels threatened by him.

Everything around him changes. The other members of his small California community begin to whisper behind his back. His "friends" question who the new George Malley is. The only ones who embrace Malley as he is are the woman he has a crush on, Lace Pennamin (Kyra Sedgwick), his best friend, Nate Pope (Forest Whitaker), and the town doctor/father figure played by Robert Duvall.

The performances are generally brilliant, but lay it on a bit thick at times. The plot has been compared to Forrest Gump, but I think it is an incongruous comparison. While Gump made a virtue of being stupid, Malley makes a virtue of being brilliant. Ultimately he is ostracised for being so, and therein lies the moral in this movie.

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||