The only saving grace would be if this story played out with gripping tension and memorable characters. Sadly, it fails on both fronts. Eva Green plays Sarah with all the distance and coldness of Pluto, and the role of the father is so underdeveloped, they might as well have just put a beard on a basketball and not hired an actor. Zélie Boulant does a fine job as Stella, but there is just nothing much on the page for her to do that is the slightest bit surprising. She’s just there to complain about her mother going away.
“The film addresses the problem that these are the kinds of questions only asked of moms who are astronauts…”
The best thing about Proxima is that it shows real attention to detail and gives us a fascinating glimpse inside the astronaut training program. I’ve seen the NASA version of this firsthand myself. When I cohosted the show Known Universe on National Geographic, I got to put on a spacesuit myself and watch astronauts go through several aspects of their training. Proxima goes one step better, taking you through nearly every step of the process, even the mundane details. And somehow they managed to film at Baikonur, even though it is usually closed to outsiders. A highlight of the film is shaky hand held footage of astronauts getting out of the bus at the launch facility, being blessed by a Russian Orthodox priest, and then riding the elevator up the gantry to get in their Soyuz capsule. Given the fact that that scene doesn’t shoot anything above the shoulders of the astronauts, how it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the cinematography, and the general impossibility of doing all that practically or with CG, I can only assume that was real footage from a launch that was repurposed.
It is that kind of “inside the life of an astronaut” angle that keeps the film reasonably engaging, even if you don’t care too much about the characters. The closing credits run with a montage of real-life astronauts who are mothers. it is touching, but it also serves to highlight how the film at least partly failed in its mission. It leaves us wanting to hear these real-life stories. Every single one of them must have been more interesting than the wholly manufactured, and yet still not entirely engaging fiction at the heart of Proxima.
Proxima screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"…shows real attention to detail and gives us a fascinating glimpse inside the astronaut training program. "