“Proxima – The Astronaut” shows how emotionally arduous the journey into space can be, long before the atmosphere is 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 spaceship that are nerve-racking to overcome. And of course show values that are literally out of this world. The Franco-German co-production “Proxima” by director Alice Winocour (45), which will hit the cinemas on June 24th, takes a different path. She turns the pursuit of the stars into a very worldly family drama.
Torn: That’s what it’s about
A lifelong dream has come true for astronaut Sarah (Eva Green, 40). She was chosen for the “Proxima” crew who will fly to the ISS and prepare the first manned trip to Mars. During her nerve-racking and exhausting preparation for the journey into space, she not only has to earn the respect of her all male colleagues, including the US head of the mission, Mike (Matt Dillon, 57). With each passing day that inevitably draws closer to the one-year mission, she worries more and more about her daughter Stella, who she has to 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 stomachache. So strong that she’s seriously considering letting the chance of her life slip by. 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 an extremely extreme way. The film turns it into a conflict – as is still customary in our society – that is primarily the female protagonist facing. In any case, none of Sarah’s male astronaut colleagues caused too sleepless nights to think that her wife would have to look after the kids alone while they were traveling through space.
That inevitably turns Eidinger’s figure into a rather ungrateful role. It is true that he is allowed to portray father Thomas in a sensitive, lovable and yes, caring manner. However, he is not trusted to be able to look after 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 upcoming separation.
Quiet moments dominate
In “Aufbruch zum Mond”, Damien Chazelles (36) biopic about the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), secular drama and space exploration were roughly in balance. In “Proxima”, on the other hand, the pendulum swings again clearly in the direction of family drama. Theoretically, the character Sarah could have taken a job at the other end of the world for a year, her inner conflict would have been the same. Only the finality, with which mother and daughter cannot see each other face to face for a year, is even more clearly defined by the setting.
“Proxima” has a sporadic feeling of space, for example when Sarah and her colleagues train in space suits and under time pressure for an emergency. But if you expect more sci-fi in view of the title, the trailer or the pictures, you will be disappointed. The heart of the film is the touching and increasingly complicated relationship between mother and daughter and the mutual fears of separation. Here, in addition to Green, who is completely absorbed in her role, the young actors Zélie Boulant-Lemesle shines and is recommended for other screen appearances.
“Proxima – Die Astronautin” is a very sensitive film, which in places feels like an accompanying documentary about a space pioneer. Anyone who hopes for meteoric science fiction will be surprised by a down-to-earth drama and will inevitably be disappointed. With the right expectations, however, “Proxima” offers the loudest message, especially in its quietest moments.