Earthbound is the story of a young man convinced he’s a space alien. Fifteen years after his father’s death, Joe (Rafe Spall) is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Just before dad (David Morrissey) died, he told Joe they were both aliens, members of a race that inhabited the faraway planet Zalaxon. Until the rebellion there is successful, Joe must hide out, work in a comic book store and somehow perpetuate their race.

Spall is terrifically deadpan, his Joe a true believer and budding paranoid, but not immune to love; when he discovers the lovely Maria (Jenn Murray), he confides everything to her, at which point she thinks he’s nuts. She brings in her old psychology teacher to counsel Joe, and his entire worldview begins to collapse.

Brennan’s tour de force is the way he dismantles Joe’s elaborate Zalaxon scenario. Earthbound acquires a pathos that places it outside the realm of comedy or sci-fi, turning it into a psychological drama that probes self-delusion and even psychosis. Murray and Spall play this all with wonderfully straight faces, allowing the comedy to arise from circumstances that might well evolve around any stranger in a strange land, or even one who just thinks he is.

John Anderson, Variety