First, you have a brilliant actor - Kevin Spacey - pulling off perhaps the best acting performance of his career as Prot. He claims to be an alien, gets locked in mental institute (understandably), and knows all sorts of things he shouldn't know about astrophysics.
So is he an alien or isn't he? The psychiatrist, played by Bridges, tries to find out, but the question is ultimately left for the viewer to decide. That is what I love about the movie: it doesn't preach. It doesn't demand us to believe in Prot. But at the same time, the movie does raise some questions. Do we really know how the universe works? What if - that is the question this movie wants to - and manages to - raise.
Then you have the ending, which isn't Hollywood-like, it only slightly touches the usual clichés about family and stuff, yet it is hart-warming and beautiful in its own silly way. I won't go deep into it so I won't spoil it for anyone, but please watch closely throughout the movie, and be prepared to use your brains a bit at the end.
The movie also plays a lot with audiovisual stuff. Beams of light are shown throughout the movie accompanied with beautiful piano music, perhaps because Prot allegedly arrived on our planet with a beam of light. This play with light makes the movie a subtly beautiful experience.
Altogether, this is an incredible work of art.
So you have all this - and what do the critics say? Most of them simply call it cr*p, and if they bother to explain why they think this way, they mumble something about this movie belonging neither to the scifi genre nor to the psychological drama genre (like the critic of the Guardian magazine). Well, get this to your heads: A GOOD STORY DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE A CLEARLY DETERMINED GENRE.
I repeat, in case the professional critics didn't quite understand what I said.
A GOOD STORY DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE A...
...Ahh, what's the use. The critics ain't gonna understand it, no matter how much I yell. Luckily, there are always people who are open to a good story. This review is dedicated to those people.