Midnight Special, the new film from Mud director, Jeff Nichols, follows Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) on his journey of discovering who he is and where he belongs. Sounds pretty normal, right? Not in Alton’s case. This 8-year-old boy has special powers of some kind. He can’t go out in daylight and this bright light shoots from his eyes whenever he removes the blue goggles he wears.
Alton’s Dad, Roy (Michael Shannon), is on the run after abducting Alton from what seems like a forced adoption by the leader of The Ranch (Sam Shepard), a cult community who believes Alton is their savior. Roy enlists the help of a childhood friend and former state trooper, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and the two race against time and black-clad G-Men to get Alton to the coordinates that hold the answers Alton seeks on a specific day only he knows.
Michael Shannon carries this film as the distressed father trying to help his son find the answers to why he is the way he is. During a routine stop for gas, Alton’s powers bring down a satellite with accompanying meteor shower. While the FBI believes Alton is some kind of weapon, Paul Sevier of the NSA (Adam Driver) questions Alton and comes to believe that Alton needs to keep searching for the truth away from government intervention.
On the journey Roy and Lucas pick up Sarah Tomlin (Kirsten Dunst), Alton’s mother, and she joins the journey, never once doubting her son’s need to discover who he is and his place in the world. She knows he is special and destined for something she cannot understand.
I’m not going to spoil the big reveal in the film but will only say that Midnight Special plays like a reverse E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, right down to the flashlight-toting government baddies. Like E.T., Alton is a seeker. He longs to understand the strange abilities he has that have made him an outsider all his short life. As I watched Alton’s journey unfold on the screen, the words of the prophet Jeremiah came to mind. Jeremiah refers to the Word of the Lord, given him as a gift. At first he didn’t want the gift but the Word burned in him until he had to share it. The prophet says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him [the Lord], or speak any more in his name’, then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). Alton had the same kind of fire burning in him. He needs to know why he has his special powers and he has to respond to the strange longing he feels.
I believe Midnight Special is a wonderful film for family viewing. The formative years are not easy on some children and kids may feel as if they are strange or weird and don’t really belong. Maybe they are bullied at school or scoffed at by other kids. For whatever reason, they may feel like Alton, an outsider searching for meaning. What a great opportunity this film will give parents to talk with their kids about Jesus and the fulfillment we find in following him.