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The Independent Critic

Kylee Levien, Ashton Solecki, Arielle Bodenhausen, Anthony Michael Hall, Dee Wallace, Lisa Whelchel, Reginald VelJohnson, Sam J. Jones
Richard Bakewell
110 Mins.

 Movie Review: Roswell Delirium 
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There's a pretty good chance you haven't seen a film like writer/director Richard Bakewell's Roswell Delirium this year. Set in the 1980s, Roswell Delirium creates a world where nuclear attacks have actually happened yet the survivors go on about their daily lives acting normally despite the fact that they're all experiencing radiation poisoning. 

Roswell Delirium adds into this world familiar 80's stars in relatively brief but important roles including Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club), Lisa Whelchel (The Facts of Life), Dee Wallace (E.T.), Reginald VelJohnson (Family Matters), and Sam Jones (Flash Gordon). The film centers around Mayday Malone (newcomer Kylee Levien), a high school girl when the two global superpowers launch a series of nuclear attacks agaisnt each other. Mayday lives in rural New Mexico, an area spared immediate impact by the attack but an area where people are slowly dying of various diseases resulting from the attack. With her emotionally distant father away working at NASA much of the time, Mayday spends most of her time monitoring government satellite communications and trying to make contact with space while her mother, Wendy (Arielle Bodenhausen), struggles to keep things afloat at home. 

Roswell Delirium then also gives us an older Mayday, going by Firefly, in her later years (played by Ashton Solecki) facing mortality yet believing she's discovered a cure in the site formerly known as Area 51. She works through all of this with her therapist (Hall, having easily the most substantial role of the 80s stars present here). 

It's perhaps unsurprising that there's more to Roswell Delirium than there initially appears to be. It's an unusual beast of a film, a uniquely told story with tones that vary between heartfelt family drama and 80s sitcom. There are a number of 80s references in the film, some work and others don't, and the underlying story here is one of poignancy and purpose. The truth as it unfolds is touching and touches upon a variety of themes including family trauma, PTSD, cultural history, and the stories that we tell ourselves in order to survive. 

Bakewell is a veteran cinematographer and television camera operator who birthed this story as a response to both his own journey back from PTSD and the global response to the 2020 pandemic. The result doesn't always work, at least not for me, but is never less than an interesting and meaningful experiment that will undoubtedly find its audience. 

The film has picked up 35 awards along its festival journey including prizes at Culver City Film Festival (2023 Grand Prize Feature Film), Chicago International Indie Film Festival (Best Illinois Filmmaker), and Five Continents International Film Festival (Best Sci-Fi Feature, Best Director, Best Actress (Solecki), Best Art Direction (Mollie Thomas), and Best Production - Feature Film among others. 

Roswell Delirium definitely intrigues and Bakewell has crafted a thoughtful film with important messaging. Levien makes a promising debut and both Ashton Solecki and Arielle Bodenhausen have moments to truly shine here. Among the 80's stars, Anthony Michael Hall is most impressive and reminds us that while he may not be the household name he once was he's still quite the impressive actor. 

While Roswell Delirium didn't quite click for me, it's a film I'm glad I spent my time with and I'm hopeful it will find its audience as deserved. With a number of prizes along its festival journey, it's clear that there will be those who tap into Bakewell's unique vision for the film and his message that is so incredibly worth experiencing. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic