Proxima centres around astronaut Sarah Loreau (Eva Green, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) who’s preparing to spend a year onboard the International Space Station, with the intent that this is the final NASA mission before mankind goes to Mars, as was recently shown as the destination in Netflix’s superb Away, as well as Matt Damon’s The Martian, which is actually based on a true story… honest.
One thing that wasn’t clear from the trailer, when I saw it some time ago, is that this film is not wholly in the English language. At first, I thought – it’s a bit odd that Eva’s character is French when Eva is English… but she’s not. I didn’t realise before watching this film that Eva Green was actually born in France, but I’ve never seen her in a film purely with French dialogue before.
In addition, there’s also some Russian and German amongst the dialogue, depending on to whom she speaks.
That explained, there are scenes such as how during a training mission at the start, Sarah was briefly impossible to understand whilst wearing a mask because it completely covered her face. Since she was speaking English, there were no subtitles for that part. Other exercises including wearing an exoskeleton with individual finger controls, being in zero gravity by carrying out tasks under water, and one in a lake to practice for when they splash down on the return.
As the training goes on – alongside colleagues including Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon, The House That Jack Built), however, she realises the many things she’s going to miss about her daughter, Stella’s (Zélie Boulant), life as the girl grows up for the next year or so without her mother, giving Sarah conflicting feelings about whether she should go at all, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity… and it’s just a year.. can she go ahead with it?
It also doesn’t help, in this sexist era, that she gets given short shrift because she’s a woman.
Don’t expect space-age high jinks because amongst the relationship drama, we’re purely watching a series of training exercises instead of a special FX melee, as Sarah trains in Star City, Russia, and Baikonur, Kazakhstan, which are the actual real locations that astronauts would use, so that’s great to see.
I also liked that that Proxima is set in the present day, rather than trying to be futuristic, since the latter is something we’ve seen many times before.
However, if you’re expecting sci-fi action galore, you’re going to be looking in the wrong place. This is an interesting film, but that’s just it. It’s mostly ‘interesting’. It’s also pretty engaging at times, but not one I’d be looking to rewatch again.
As an aside, I also liked that Sarah has a cat called Laika, the same name as the first dog to go into space and orbit the Earth. This was in the Sputnik 2 craft, which wasn’t designed to be retriveable and so, sadly, Laika died while he was up there.
One downer about this film though – while there’s a mention of it being boiling in Houston while it’s cold in Russia, we get a blunt hammer over the head with one character commenting in a brief moment, “How can you deny climate change?” Ugh, can’t you leave that out of a film for once? I like escapism with my films.
An upper, though – as the end credits roll to the very cool, ’80s-sounding Agar Agar’s You’re High, we’re shown pictures of female astronauts who have gone into space, along with their respective year-date of their missions.
Note: This is just a review of the film only.
Running time: 107 minutes
Release date: November 23rd 2020
Studio: Picture House Entertainment
Director: Alice Winocour
Producers: Serge Hayat, Isabelle Madelaine, Emilie Tisné
Screenplay: Alice Winocour, Jean-Stéphane Bron
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Sarah Loreau: Eva Green
Stella Akerman Loreau: Zélie Boulant
Mike Shannon: Matt Dillon
Anton Ocheivsky: Aleksey Fateev
Thomas Akerman: Lars Eidinger
Wendy Hauer: Sandra Hüller
Jurgen: Trond-Erik Vassal
Naomi Shannon: Nancy Tate
Sarah’s Doctor: Grégoire Colin
Dima: Igor Filippov
Vera: Svetlana Nekhoroshikh
Russian Journalist: Anna Sherbinina
Star City Member: Vitaly Jay
Exoskeleton Coaches: Lionel Ferra, Manuela Aguzzi
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.