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MOVIES: Proxima - Review

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One of my most disappointing movie experiences as of late has been Lucy in the Sky, a film that jumped the shark halfway through and displayed Noah Hawley’s tendencies to self-indulge and never really went anywhere. Alice Winocour’s Proxima is an instant upgrade from that film, a towering accomplishment that shines the light on a mother-daughter relationship putting it at the focus of an astronaut-centric drama, with Eva Green preparing to go into space forcing herself to leave her child behind. This is a film that subverts the typical clichés of the genre in favour of a mostly grounded affair, shining a light on the core family bonds throughout and looking at what astronauts stand to lose by leaving the planet behind, rather than focusing on the journey itself.

We’ve had a lot of astronaut-centric movies over the last few years, Damien Chazelle recreated the Moon Landing in First Man, Matt Damon was rescued in Ridley Scott’s The Martian and Robert Pattinson went into space never to return in High Life. Proxima feels like another worthy addition to that stellar line-up, its smart, intelligent script aided by the powerhouse performance from the legendary Eva Green, who audiences completely buy into her character. It’s her chemistry with Zélie Boulant-Lemesle, who plays Stella, the daughter that Green’s Sarah is leaving behind, for over a year, that elevates an already good film to greatness, and the audience completely believes everything that Stella is going through, the rebellious daughter acting out over potentially losing her mother forever, and Sarah’s connection to her and the lack of presence in her daughter’s life at a crucial age is a major factor in the film’s staying power, the emotional beats all hit home and the ending saw this film stay around for a memorable experience.

The technical aspects of Proxima are on point and the visuals really allow for an eye-catching experience. Cinematographer Georges Lechapotis hits another home run after working on Rebecca Zlotowski’s An Easy Girl (currently streaming on Netflix, very much recommended), creating one of the most visually stunning movies of the year. Multiple shots in this film left me breathless, and words alone cannot do it justice. The film spends most of its time at a space bootcamp in Russia, and whilst the film does take its time to fully get underway, it provides a realistic, intelligent look at the rigorous training of an astronaut and what they must go through, often alone and often without family support. But every detail is meticulously chosen for maximum impact, including being shot on real locations to aid in the authenticity of the film’s atmosphere.

Proxima ties itself to the life of the planet that the astronauts are leaving, and the fact that Winocour manages to make a dream job of becoming an astronaut so relatable is one of her biggest strengths as a filmmaker, working off the rich script which she co-wrote with Jean-Stéphane Bron. It’s a movie that puts so much emphasis on humanising astronauts that the main strength is in the characters and their performances - everything here plays to Eva Green’s strength as an actress, she is incredibly committed and the attention never leaves Sarah or her daughter, with supporting actors Matt Dillon, Lars Eidinger and Sandra Hüller largely relegated to the sidelines, drifting in and out of the film but always with equal conviction to their characters, Dillon is the smug, overly confident opposition to Sarah, whilst Hüller is terrifically understated as Wendy, who steps into look after Sarah’s daughter while she’s away.

If you go in looking for a typical astronaut in space film you may be disappointed, but Proxima very much excels in its element, almost inspirationally so. As a sucker for space dramas of any sort I was always going to like Proxima, but what really stood out for me was just how much I liked it, with every aspect of the film complimenting each other. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s suitably atmospheric score has shades of Brian Eno’s For All Mankind score, and it’s a testament to how brilliant it is that I have it on near constant repeat days later.

Proxima is currently airing in UK cinemas.

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