Ambiguity can be a hard thing to fake. Films that revolve around two possibilities can either slip into who-cares boredom or obviousness. K-Pax nurtures its central mystery carefully and emerges significantly stronger for it. This is attributable in large part of Kevin Spacey—an actor famous for his knowing smirk. Spacey's Prot turns up in Grand Central Station one day. He says he's from another planet. While Prot may have passed unnoticed in pre-Giuliani NYC—and indeed claims to have been to Earth before—this time around he lands in a psychiatric ward under the care of Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges). Powell's intrigued by Prot's composure and command of astrophysics (not to mention his knack for healing other patients). Their relationship is furthered as Prot realizes that the doctor is in need of some healing himself.
If you pull aside the mysterious sci-fi elements, K-Pax would be another disappointing feel-good film like Spacey's recent Pay It Forward. But director Iain Softley doesn't let that happen here. Prot's bizarre predicament lies at the film's heart. K-Pax's construction rather elegantly keeps both possibilities—Earthman or Spaceman—afloat. The result is a playfully original addition to the season's offerings.