In the future, psychiatrist Kelvin (George Clooney) is sent out to the distant planet of Solaris to investigate the mysterious failure of a mission there. He agrees to go because a friend of his was part of the crew of the space station orbiting Solaris, but on arrival, Kelvin finds only two of the crew alive and the others either dead or vanished. As Kelvin tries to make sense of what is happening, his past comes back to haunt him - somehow Solaris is resurrecting the crew's memories...
Adapted by the director Steven Soderbergh from the celebrated novel by Stanislaw Lem, this follows in the footsteps of the original adaptation brought to us by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972. Although it met with a measure of critical acclaim, Soderbergh's version was a disaster at the box office, appealing neither to science fiction fans or romance fans, being as it is a sorrowful love story with futuristic trimmings. Another reason it may have failed is it's similarity to the Tarkovsky rendering in that it's happy not to be entirely clear what is going on, even by the end.
What Kelvin discovers is that the planet is alive, a conscious entity which makes contact with the humans by conjuring up their memories. Kelvin's main memory is of his late wife Rheya (Natascha McElhone) who, we learn in snippets of flashback, has committed suicide after a furious Kelvin discovered she had aborted their baby. Yet the Rheya Kelvin sees is not the Rheya he knew: she's basically how he remembers her, and she has little self awareness, rather than being a complete resurrection. Everyone on board the space station is suffering the same visions, but apparently only Kelvin wants his memories kept alive in this form.
Essentially Kelvin has become a product of his recollections, too, and he can't let go of his guilt and despair. He is plagued by his wife's ghost, literally now, and cannot bear to leave her again. Soderbergh sustains a mood quiet unease and mournful romance, helped by the gloomy, sterile look of the film, the understated acting and the excellent music of Cliff Martinez. The trouble is, the love story has no passion, and when the film closes with a kind of reunion, you feel no satisfaction, because now Kelvin has become trapped by his love in the past. For a film so preoccupied with inescapable emotions, perhaps this is the most appropriate outcome.
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.