REVIEW: ‘John Was Trying To Contact Aliens’


"John Was Trying to Contact Aliens" dir. Matthew Killip, Netflix

William Becker, Staff Writer

You would be forgiven for thinking John Shepard, the subject of “John Was Trying To Contact Aliens,” is a strange man. You would also be forgiven for thinking (at least before viewing) that “John Was Trying To Contact Aliens” is a boring, alien conspiracy documentary. You would not, however, be forgiven for having a Netflix subscription and neglecting to watch the aforementioned documentary. If anything, Netflix is made for captivating tales such as the bit-sized documentary about John Shepard. As far as Netflix originals go, “The Old Guard” is a passable film, “Project Power” is mediocre, “Marriage Story” is phenomenally emotional and “The Irishman” is quite simply a Martin Scorsese Film, but none of them really capture the same sort of energy as “John Was Trying To Contact Aliens.”

The documentary focuses on the titular character and his journey throughout his life to contact extraterrestrial beings with extremely expensive equipment in his grandparents’ basement. Honestly, the journey to find aliens is the least compelling part of the entire film. Clocking in at just 16 minutes, the short-film is a surprisingly touching look into a very peculiar man who has a profound interest in aliens. Intertwined with archive footage, interviews and childhood photographs, the viewer can’t help but feel like by the end of the 16 minutes, they know exactly who John Shepard is: a gay, eccentric, creative and inspirational man. I was taken by just how much beauty was captured in such a short time around such a niche subject. The documentary isn’t even about aliens as much as it is about passion. From the title and description, I was convinced I would be viewing something akin to “Ancient Aliens,” but instead, I found myself immersed in one of the most compelling case studies I have ever seen. There’s something of a romantic perspective in realizing that the message isn’t only related to aliens, but instead, understanding that everyone is trying to make contact, whether it be to aliens, dreams, a sense of belonging, love, or even just plain acceptance. John never contacts a single alien, but what he finds along the way is far more beautiful than anything that could be expected.