Current Issue #488

Film Review:

Writer/director Alice Winocour’s vaguely awkward drama is saved from the brink by a strong performance by the luminous Eva Green, and she’s matched by little Zélie Boulant as her eight-year-old daughter.

A French/German co-production in four languages and shot in France, Germany, Russia and Kazakhstan, this unfortunately got rather lost commercially this year (for obvious reasons) and surely had some of its thunder stolen by a recent and seemingly similar pic, Lucy In The Sky with Natalie Portman.

However, Lucy concerned an American astronaut returning to Earth and struggling to adjust to bland life here, while Winocour’s film is about a French astronaut chosen for a year-long mission (called ‘Proxima’) on the International Space Station, and the chaos it causes in her already somewhat chaotic family life.

Sarah Loreau (the picky Green) is introduced going through seriously intense training (partially filmed in a real space training facility, the European Space Centre) that tests her physically and psychologically, and immediately we can see that her daughter Stella (Boulant) fears for her mother’s safety. It’s a complex and difficult relationship, especially as the family travels across countries and Sarah has separated from Stella’s Dad Thomas (Lars Eidinger, not afraid to look sour), and because Stella, like any eight-year-old, has sudden, jarring changes in mood. Much like the film.

Occasionally the kid sits seething, refusing to behave, while at other times she’s excited and full of questions, or fearfully clinging to Sarah. And her emotional messiness isn’t helped by her, well, proximity while disastrous potential scenarios are discussed, and she’s left wondering what will happen if ‘Maman’ doesn’t come back.

Sandra Hüller (from Toni Erdmann) is good as chilly psychologist Wendy Hauer, and Matt Dillon (another choosy type) is unusually unpleasant as Mike Shannon, Sarah’s snarky Yank colleague whose mean, sexist and apparently anti-French nature makes you wonder how he ever got chosen for the mission. The edgy games they play are obviously symbolised when they meet for the second time and he just happens to be playing Danse Macabre.

However, these characters are secondary to the what goes on between mother and daughter as the launch looms. Science fiction fans (bless them!) have moaned about all this touchy-feely stuff and this one’s complete lack of space action – but what did they expect?

After all, it’s less about the enormity of the universe and more about the vastness of emotions.

Reviewer Rating

Proxima (M) is now available digitally and on DVD

DM Bradley

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