Proxima

****

Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Proxima
"The narrative manages to balance the personal with the wider world of space exploration while dealing with the issues of domesticity and family demands and the conflicts of pursuing a demanding work arc." | Photo: Unifrance

For her third feature Alice Winocour provides a neat counter-point to James Gray’s Ad Astra (about a father and son in space) with a female-centric tale of a woman astronaut preparing to launch forth while her daughter stays home.

The narrative manages to balance the personal with the wider world of space exploration while dealing with the issues of domesticity and family demands and the conflicts of pursuing a demanding work arc.

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There’s a wonderful luminous performance by Zélie Boulant-Lemesle as eight-year-old daughter Stella, concerned about her mother Sarah (Eva Green) and her trip to the International Space Station. The girl believes she could be dying and heading to Heaven.

It starts with gruelling training in Cologne, where the family are reunited with the girl’s estranged astrophysicist father (Lars Eidinger). The action then moves to Moscow where Sarah joins other astronauts including Matt Dillon and Aleksey Fateev before the rocket launch takes place in Kazakhstan.

Winocour has managed to access the actual European Space Agency facilities and even succeeded in persuading real French astronaut Thomas Pesquet to make a guest appearance. The settings and Winocour’s attention to detail give the film a real sense of authenticity as she puts the stressed emotions of the participants under the microscope, especially as Sarah finds the enforced separation from her daughter causes her more angst than she had imagined.

Although set against the high tech background of astronauts it could represent the dilemma of any parent trying to combine the personal and the professional and seems particularly heightened in the machismo world of astronauts.

Technically the film is impressive and despite its ethos remains grounded in real lives as well as the super-controlled universe of space.

Winocour - who made the period drama Augustine and the thriller Disorder - relishes dealing with characters torn between various demands, a theme around which Proxima allows her to expand. Multi-tasking Sarah returns to Earth more liberated and resilient than before she left - and her daughter also benefits from the experience of separation.

The director has suggested that the feminist aspect of the film shows that a woman can be both a mother and a high-flying professional and Winocour seems intent on proving it in her work.

Proxima opens Glasgow Film Festival on 26 February (in the presence of Alice Winocour) and goes on general release in the UK from 8 May.

Reviewed on: 21 Feb 2020
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A female astronaut finds the demands of work take their toll on her single-mum relationship with her young daughter.

Director: Alice Winocour

Writer: Jean-Stéphane Bron, Alice Winocour

Starring: Eva Green, Zélie Boulant-Lemesle, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller

Year: 2019

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: France, Germany


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