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  Proxima Eva Wanted To Go Into Space?
Year: 2019
Director: Alice Winocour
Stars: Eva Green, Zelie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller, Trond-Erik Vassal, Nancy Tate, Gregoire Colin, Igor Filippov, Svetlana Nekhoroshikh, Anna Sherbinina, Vitaly Jay, Lionel Ferra, Manuela Aguzzi
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sarah Loreau (Eva Green) is about to start training for the experience of a lifetime, going into orbit on the International Space Station. Previous to this, her most significant experience had been becoming a mother, to the little girl Stella (Zelie Boulant), who is the main source of joy for her now she has split with the child's father, Thomas (Lars Eidinger), though they remain on fairly friendly terms. Just as well, because there's no way Sarah can take Stella with her, it's not allowed, and for most of the training she will be separated from her daughter as well. Now she is beginning to prepare, she did not anticipate how difficult this would be without Stella around...

And she is not finding much support for her emotional dilemma. In director Alice Winocour's previous film had been about someone else under psychological pressure, a bodyguard in Disorder, and while there was no threat of violence in Proxima, there was nevertheless a deep morass of feelings that were conflicted at best. It was clear she wished to explore separation anxiety between mother and daughter, and the need for Sarah to do something Stella would be proud of balanced against the fear she was essentially abandoning her for far too long a stretch by travelling as far away as she possibly could without actually joining a Mars mission or similar.

Green exuded a soulful, regretful quality throughout, so that you truly believed in her character's sadness resonating in a highly unusual set of circumstances. The trouble with this was, the movie was nearly two hours long and that was pretty much all there was to it. Once you got the idea Sarah was going to miss Stella (and the girl's name must have been an indication that her mother had a view to getting off the planet at some point), Winocour was not content to move on and explore a woman's place in the spacecraft environment, she simply kept returning to her protagonist's endless fretting about whether she was doing the right thing. This carried on to the point where you wanted to tell her, look, if you really don't want to take this journey, don't bloody do it.

She didn't half go on in her seemingly limitless soul-searching, and this was straight up until the final scenes. One supposed there was a tension she would back out, but that would be a heck of an anticlimax to lead up to, and at least there was a confidence the film would not cop out on that score. For most of it, there was a generally engrossing air thanks to near-documentary scenes of Sarah being put through her paces as she is tested for her physical suitability for the excursion, yet oddly nobody attended to her psychological needs, and the casual sexism that seemed out of place in a modern astronautical setting was much in evidence until the main proponent, boorish American space guy Matt Dillon, thawed and turned out to be a nice bloke after all.

Business such as that left you wondering why bother including the chauvinism at all, since it fizzled out without a point, leaving the void to be filled by Sarah's maternal angst which dominated the latter stages so far as to become an active distraction from what should have been the excitement of going heavenwards. This would have been all very well if there had been a solution for Sarah's heartache, but even as the end credits rolled and photos of female astronauts appeared on the screen as tribute, you have to believe they coped a lot better than our heroine even tried to here. Though some may have more issue with the lack of budget for the anticipated ISS scenes, no matter how true to life the actual training montages were by using genuine equipment and tests. Perhaps the biggest irony we were meant to take away was that Sarah was actually a homemaker, not a career woman, but that came across as a missed opportunity for someone to take her place who would appreciate it far better. Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

[PROXIMA - On DVD, Blu-ray & Digital 23 November. 2020]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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