John Klein (Richard Gere) has a successful career as a Washington Post journalist and a beautiful and loving wife Mary (Debra Messing). Driving back from looking at the dream house they want to buy John's perfect life is suddenly shattered. Mary sees something fly at the windshield and she crashes the car. Of course there was nothing there--nothing John saw anyway. Still this "thing" haunts Mary and soon after she dies from an inexplicable brain tumor. Jumping ahead two years John is still grieving for his wife. When driving to an assignment in Richmond Virginia his car suddenly breaks down on a lonely road and he discovers that somehow he's driven to Point Pleasant West Virginia--400 miles off his main course--with no idea how he got there. With the help of a local police officer (Laura Linney) John decides to stay for a bit in this small town after he is intrigued by reports of unexplained phenomena and sightings of a "winged being." The reports seem to be connected not only to each other but also to the strange drawings Mary did before she died. What terrible fate awaits the people of Point Pleasant and how does it relate to his wife? John races against time to find out and the more he unravels the more he questions his own sanity.
Most of the cast does a adequate job with their parts but ultimately this is a hard film to "act" in. It's a reactionary tale where the actors must continually respond incredulously to the strange events happening around them never really delving into any character aspects or showing any genuine relationships. Gere has the toughest job since his character does most of the "reacting." True he is not considered one of the greatest actors but he has certain qualities that draw audiences in (ie: his great looks). Mothman unfortunately doesn't exploit many of them. All his emotion is shown in the first 10 minutes of the film when playing the loving couple with Messing whereas he is left numb throughout the rest of the film. Linney is also given little to work with playing the levelheaded police sergeant who is the film's doubting Thomas. After proving how good she can really be in You Can Count on Me she deserves better than this. Will Patton is the only one who gets to turn in an interesting performance (when doesn't he?) as a local man tormented by the "Mothman."
There's only one good question to ask after seeing this film: What in the heck was that all about? Part X-Files part Nostradamus Mothman starts off pretty creepy but once the main character gets to Point Pleasant the film stalls. You are never really told what the unexplained being (or beings) are that haunt this small town--and if you did you might not care much. Even given the fact that the story is based on true-life events it still doesn't really make the subject matter any more interesting. In one scene John questions a professor (played by a wasted Alan Bates) who knows about these winged creatures: "Why don't they come out and tell us what they want?" To which the professor replies "You're more advanced than a cockroach do you try and explain that to them?" Oh so we're the cockroaches and the Mothmen are more advanced than we are handing down cryptic prophecies to us? OK that would make sense if only the film would actually commit to that idea instead of meandering about. Mothman is too slowly paced taking its interminable sweet time getting to the punch which actually is pretty powerful. You just wished it happened about a half hour earlier.