Review: An Invisible Sign

Jessica Alba and Chris Messina in An Invisible Sign

You say the critics hated it? Yeah, I probably loved it.

An Invisible Sign got terrible reviews from all the critics. And, as often happens, I love the very movie the critics hate.

Spoilers ahead.

I thought An Invisible Sign was utterly original and eccentric and odd. It was a mix of fantasy and reality. It was a tale told by women about a woman. That may be why the critics didn’t get it. In addition to needing more women writers, directors and producers, we need more women critics.

The “woman” is 20-year old Mona Gray (Jessica Alba and young Bailee Madison). Since age 10, she’s been stuck in the bargaining stage of the grieving process. When she was 10, her dad (John Shea) was changed forever by mental illness. She wants her dad back the way he was and does all manner of odd things because she’s bargaining with God to get him back. She’s never grown up, never dealt with reality. She’s just stuck.

The one thing she gets is numbers. Her mother (Sonia Braga) boots her out of the house. She hopes tough love will wake her up. Her mother finds her a job as a math teacher – which is NOT qualified for.

Speaking of Sonia Braga and Jessica Alba, I love the Latina aspect of this film, although it goes unremarked in the movie. Give a Latina the leading role, yes, indeed.

Mona Gray and her student, Lisa.
Mona Gray and her student, Lisa.

As a teacher she’s a disaster, but she does meet Ben (Chris Messina) at the school. He helps wake her up. She also meets and connects with 3rd grader Lisa (Sophie Nyweide) who loves both numbers and Mona Gray. She finally connects with the math teacher she loved as a child, Mr. Jones (J.K. Simmons). Mr. Jones just happens to be her next door neighbor.

The romance with Ben was completely predictable, as all romantic films are. But the situation and the character were so peculiar that it was delightful to me to watch it all unfold.

I thought Jessica Alba did a wonderful job with the part. She used those big brown eyes of hers to look both terrified and mystified by the life around her for most of the movie and it worked.

This was a women-centric film in every way. Directed by Marilyn Agrelo, written by Pamela Falk and Michael Ellis, An Invisible Sign was based on a book by Aimee Bender. Lisa Rinzler was the cinematographer. Many of the producers were women. Women did many of the behind the scenes jobs on the production.

Watch the Trailer

An Invisible Sign was released in 2010. I watched it on Netflix, and assume other streaming services have it also.

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