Saturday, February 08, 2020

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival 2020.01: Proxima

I'm going to try and project as many good vibes about this festival as I can this year, because while we've had issues in the past, the schedule that's been put together for the first weekend, at least, is impressive as heck and Proxima looks like the sort of movie I really like that just misses the cut to playing in Boston. Yes, it's got an actor or two you're familiar with and a filmmaker people have heard of, but we've only got so many screens and it's not like the upscale theaters that have been built here show more grown-up movies as opposed to the same thing with a better wine list. At best, it probably gets the same sort of one-week release as Aniara or Little Joe, because the Kendall is close to MIT and hopes this might get some trade from there.

Anyway, heck of a start to the festival. Here's hoping the rest lives up to it!


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 February 2020 in Somerville Theatre #3 (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, DCP)

Among the many things that intrigue about Proxima is how the standard narrative of movies like this seem built to push the story, and the audience, in a specific direction. Lots of movies that didn't live up to their potential have made it as easy to joke about them being about "discovering what's really important" as "friends we made along the way" or the like. And yet that construction works, because what counters it? Proxima is at its best when it makes you wonder.

It is, from one side, the story of Sarah Loreau (Eva Green), a brilliant engineer and astronaut candidate at the European Space Agency, who has just been selected for the "Proxima" mission, a year-long stay on the International Space Station with American Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) and Russian Anton Ocheivsky (Aleksey Fateev) which will serve as a sort of dry run for a mission to Mars. The training at Space City in Russia will be intense, but that is not the hardest part: She has a daughter, Stella (Zélie Boulant), a bright seven-year-old (though dyslexia and dyscalculia make school more difficult), and while it's likely that her ex Thomas Akerman (Lars Eidinger) will step up more than he has, a year is a very long time at that age.

From the other, it's the story of a little girl who has seemed to get through a divorce unscathed but is now faced with not just moving to a new city in a new country, but her mother voluntarily leaving her for over a year. Though Matt Dillon is naturally going to be billed and credited second, young Zélie Boulant is clearly the film's other lead, and she does impressive work for one so young, aided by a script by director Alice Winocour and co-writer Jean-Stéphane Bron that seldom presumes to get inside a child's mind but certainly gives Boulant many opportunities to present all the nervousness and anger that seeming abandonment will cause while also demonstrating the immense, unbreakable love and awe she has for her mother. Children are often pawns or abstractions in movies about parents trying to balance family and career, but Stella is a real kid whose needs and desires are not necessarily simple. Indeed, part of what makes this so agonizing for Sarah is that she and the audience can see the very real possibility of Stella not being destroyed but growing away from her mother.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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