Family drama with sci-fi impact
“Proxima – The Astronaut” shows how emotionally arduous the journey into space can be long before the atmosphere has been left.
When a film is given the nickname “The Astronaut”, it inevitably brings with it certain associations. Oppressive scenes in a vacuum come to mind. Technical problems on board the spacecraft that have to be overcome nerve-wrackingly. And, of course, also show values that are literally out of this world. However, the French-German co-production “Proxima” by director Alice Winocour (45), which will be released in cinemas on June 24, takes a different approach. She turns the pursuit of the stars into a very secular family drama.
Torn back and forth: That’s what it’s all about
For astronaut Sarah (Eva Green, 40), a lifelong dream has come true. She was chosen for the “Proxima” crew to fly to the ISS and prepare the first manned journey to Mars. During her nerve-wracking and exhausting preparation for the journey into space, she not only has to earn the respect of her all-male colleagues, including the American head of the mission, Mike (Matt Dillon, 57). With each passing day that inevitably brings the year-long mission closer, she worries more about her daughter Stella, who she must leave behind on Earth.
Leaving the seven-year-old in the care of her biological father Thomas (Lars Eidinger, 45) for the duration of the mission gives Sarah a stomach ache. So strong that she seriously thinks about letting the chance of her life pass after all. An insoluble conflict seems to be building up in front of her: Would she ever forgive herself for flying into space and leaving her daughter behind? And would she ever forgive herself for not doing it?
Career or family?
“Proxima” poses the often discussed question of the degree to which career and family can be reconciled in a very extreme way. As is still customary in our society, the film turns it into a conflict that is primarily faced by the female protagonist. None of Sarah’s male astronaut colleagues is given too sleepless nights by the thought that her wife has to take care of the kids alone while they travel the universe.
This inevitably makes Eidinger’s character a rather thankless role. Although he is allowed to portray Father Thomas sensitively, endearingly and yes, also caring. However, he is not trusted that he can take care of his daughter alone for a year. In addition to Eidinger, Sandra Hüller (43, “Toni Erdmann”) can also be seen in another small role. As a psychologist, she tries to prepare mother and daughter for the imminent separation.
Quiet moments dominate
In “Departure to the Moon”, Damien Chazelle’s (36) biopic about the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), secular drama and space exploration were still roughly balanced. In “Proxima”, on the other hand, the pendulum swings once again clearly in the direction of family drama. Theoretically, character Sarah could have taken a job on the other side of the world for a year, her inner conflict would probably have been the same. Only the finality, with which mother and daughter cannot see each other face to face for a year, is even clearer defined by the setting.
Space feeling comes up sporadically in “Proxima”, for example when Sarah and her colleagues train in space suits and under time pressure for emergencies. But if you expect more sci-fi in view of the title, the trailer or the pictures, you will be disappointed. At the heart of the film are the touching and increasingly complicated relationship between mother and daughter and the fears of separation on both sides. In addition to Green, who is fully absorbed in her role, the young actors Zélie Boulant-Lemesle shine here and are recommended for further screen assignments.
“Proxima – The Astronaut” is a very sensitive film that sometimes feels like an accompanying documentary about a space pioneer. Anyone hoping for meteoric science fiction will be surprised by a down-to-earth drama and inevitably disappointed. With the right expectations, “Prox” offersima”, on the other hand, the loudest message, especially in its quietest moments.