Proxima review: an astronaut movie that’s a little bit different

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Alice Winocour directs and Eva Green stars, as Proxima heads into UK cinemas – and here’s our review of the movie.

The tension between pursuing a career as an astronaut and raising a child forms the basis of the new film from writer-director Alice Winocour. Starring Eva Green, Proxima is an intimate drama about a woman completing the gruelling task of preparing to travel to the International Space Station, whilst trying to continue fulfilling her duties as a mother to her eight-year-old daughter, Stella.

Sarah (Green) is chosen to join the Proxima mission, which will see her achieve her life-long dream of space travel, being then required to complete a rigorous training programme to prepare her for the year-long stint. She is also forced to contend with being the only woman on the team, facing sexism from her fellow astronauts, including a pompous American played by Matt Dillon. At times, the film is a bit on the nose with its themes and some scenes feel heavy handed, though it is a credit to Green’s strikingly subtle performance that these do not detract from the overall emotional intensity of Winocour’s work.

Like most great films about space, Proxima shows the psychological impact such situations can have on both those making the journey and those around them. The film focuses more on the arduous challenge of preparing for the mission than the mission itself. More of a slow burner than a rocket-fuelled romp, Winocour is not concerned with outlandish science-fiction, opting instead to show the everyday realities of readying for space travel. Nevertheless, it doesn’t shy away from the physically demanding nature of the journey, and Sarah is seen repeatedly being put through her paces and tackling tough training exercises.

Similarly, Winocour does not mollify the emotional hardships experienced by the characters, nor does she reduce Sarah’s narrative to a simple good mother/bad mother dichotomy. She battles with the sacrifices she is having to make, missing out on being with her daughter, but simultaneously shows Stella the importance of pursuing your dreams. The complex realities of the situation are given time to develop and feel all the more authentic as a result. Winocour’s focus on a mother-daughter relationship feels particularly fresh, especially after having primarily seen male-orientated stories about space-travel over the years.

If you’re expecting a galactic travel adventure pulsating with action, you will be disappointed. However, it is precisely Winocour’s more understated approach to the topic, one focusing on a female astronaut and grounded in emotional realism, that makes Proxima so different.


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