Is he crazy?…or is he light years ahead of us?
K-PAX is one of those mindful films about how the earth and life connects with one another. There are many films about extraterrestrials visiting earth–but K-PAX is unique. The ET Prot (Kevin Spacey) isn’t invading, or taking humans to experiment on aboard a mother ship–he is a celestial tourist. He visits earth every few years to collect data and immerse in life experiences. A wanderer throughout the universe who accidentally becomes a patient in a mental facility and shares with the other patients and his psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges) his great wisdom, but also information about life on his home planet and its customs.
Prot arrives on Earth by way of New York City. He was involved in a mugging incident, and after discussing his non-earthly origins, he is committed to the Psychiatric Institute of Manhattan. There, he meets Dr. Mark Powell (Bridges). He fascinates the psychiatrist with what he believes are wild tales, but soon becomes convinced that Prot is much more than his human form. Prot quickly befriends the other patients in the psych ward and inspires them to see past their confining illnesses with his calm and friendly demeanor.
Prot is also shown to be quite caring, not just towards the patients, but to Dr. Powell. The duo become good friends and discover quite a lot about each other. Part of Prot’s identity is later revealed to be traumatic, however, from this incident, are details of just how he changed the lives of those around him during his brief stay on earth.
The patients in the psych ward were a refreshing inclusion to the film as well developed, and sympathetic characters. Usually, in situations like this, the mental patients are portrayed as comedic standbys as comic relief or as horrific sideshows. I like that they are seen as “real people” who needed a little TLC and good company to keep them occupied.
Spacey’s performance as Prot is one of the many highlights of K-PAX. His character radiates pure cosmic wisdom with wonderful touches of humor he acquired during his time on earth. Prot carries an outlook on life that sees the whole picture rather than tunnel vision as most humans do, pointing out how interconnected we are with one another and should value and improve our universal relationships.
K-PAX is a personally reflective film that offers plenty of insightful moments, words and actions of the Prot character, and perhaps adapt a few of his philosophic approaches to daily life. A contemplative film that can help to sort out human complexities in defining our place in the cosmos–or whether we can look forward to meeting with whoever may be out there.