380 films, including 9 world premieres, 10 European premieres, 102 UK premieres, and 39 Scottish premieres, and special events. There’s no denying that the Glasgow Film Festival has an incredibly strong line-up.
It must have been an extremely hard task for the programmers to choose one movie that would be their openings film. Many hours of deliberation resulted in “Proxima” from director Alice Winocour (“Disorder”, “Augustine”) opening the festival.
After seeing the UK premiere of this film, we can stand behind that decision. The movie is filled with emotions, strong female performances, and an extremely human and recognizable story.
Six years. That’s how old the French Sarah Loreau (Eva Green) was when she knew that she wanted to be an astronaut. Ready to lift off with the lampshade as a helmet, she started the journey of a lifetime.
A journey during which she didn’t only pursue her ultimate dream but also during which she became the wonderful mother of Stella (Zélie Boulant). Now, they’re living in Cologne while Sarah is preparing herself for the most exciting but also most dangerous mission she’s ever been on, Proxima, during which she will make a trip to Mars.
Together with the American astronauts Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) and the Russian Anton Ocheivsky (Aleksey Fateev), she’s training every day. During her training days, she’s not only being tested as an astronaut but also as a mother as she has to leave her daughter alone more and more.
Stella might still be young but she already knows what the implications are when her mother goes to space. This has a massive emotional effect on both women but luckily they get support from the ex-husband and Stella’s father Thomas Akerman (Lars Eidinger).
The closer the history-changing day comes, the harder it gets for the family, especially when Sarah has to leave her daughter behind for the last preparations. This has an undeniable big impact on the lives of her and her daughter.
Stella has to live with her father which results in attending a different school and Sarah is doubting even more whether she made the right decision or not. Her dream is closer more than ever but her family wasn’t further than they’re now. When hearing Will Sarah fly to Mars and achieve her dream or will her motherly feelings keep her on the ground?
During the last few years, there were many documentaries and films made about space missions such as “Apollo 11”, “Ad Astra” and “First Man” so you’re probably wondering why they needed to make another one. Well, let us tell you. “Proxima” has many elements that put the film into the same category as those three stunning features.
First, it’s the performance of the leading characters. It’s the female talent that rules this film with Green (“The Salvation”, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”) as the frontrunner. She gives Sarah every trait a mother should have: Being a sweet, loving and patient one. She does that with such a wonderful and captivating performance.
However, Green also portrays Sarah, the astronaut, in a great way by making her emotionally more unstable, absent from her family and too focussed on her dream. No matter which phase Sarah is going through, the performance of Green stays captivating and touching.
Another strong woman is leading “Proxima” and that’s Boulant (“Pieces of Me”). Her acting is such a treat to watch, especially because Stella is such a sweet, playful but also independent and grown-up young girl. Boulant puts a smile on your face and makes you tear up more than once.
The most emotional scenes are without a doubt the ones between her and Green. They have undeniably strong chemistry. This is only Boulant’s second feature but pretty sure that that number will rise soon.
Just like when you go on a real space mission, you need great support and that’s exactly what the women get. Dillon (“Rock Dog”, “The House That Jack Built”) his performance is a very fine one. At first, he makes you feel reluctant because his character treats Sarah rudely. However, when Shannon opens up more about his life and shows his tender side, Dillon’s performance becomes much more enjoyable and emotional.
Fateev (“Loveless”, “Metro”) gives a more honest performance as the caring, and understanding astronaut. We see the wonderful Eidinger (“High Life”, “Dumbo”) as the supportive and admiring Akerman and there’s also the wonderful and emotional Sandra Hüller (“In the Aisles”, “25 km/h”) as Wendy Hauer who’s taking care of Stella when Sarah is gone.
When you think of features about space missions, you probably expect stunning visual effects. While there are probably a few of those in “Proxima”, this movie focusses much more on the emotional side of the personal story.
As mentioned before, emotions are being portrayed in the most wonderful way which makes them feel familiar. We all have a dream that we want to achieve but to do that, we might have to give up something.
That real-life vibe is also created by the perfect usage of the cinematography and editing. Cinematographer Georges Lechaptois (“Savage”, “Disorder”) combines both static shots as well as shots beautifully made by handheld cameras.
The static shots are used during the more emotional scenes while the handheld cameras give the movie the up-close element it deserves. The (slow) editing by Julien Lacheray (“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, “A Polar Year”) will make you connect with the character on an emotional level.
After winning awards such as “Platform Prize” at the Toronto International Film Festival and multiple jury prizes as the “San Sebastián International Film Festival”, “Proxima” will set to the UK soon and you should catch it from the moment you can.
Winocour takes you on a voyage that’s filled with a captivating performance, big emotions, a strong element of recognizability and the wonderful world of space.
“Proxima” is released in the UK and Ireland on the 8th of May.