Toronto 2019: Proxima

Eva Green in Proxima. Courtesy of TIFF.

Proxima tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship and the troubles that ensue when said mother is also in the space program.

Sarah (Eva Green) raises daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant-Lemesle) with astrophysicist ex-husband Thoma (Lars Eidinger).  It’s one thing to share parenting duties while separated or divorced.  Sharing such duties when one parent is training for the space program let alone in space?!?  It’s out of this world!  Anyway, Sarah is set to join the crew of the Proxima mission.  The crew includes both American astronaut Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) and Russian astronaut Anton Ochievski (Aleksey Fateev).  The training is intense so much to the point that yes, Sarah does black out in the process.  But at no point do we stop rooting for her.

Eva Green is amazing in the role.  One of the benefits of the film is being able to see the hardcore training for the space program.  Rather than utilize the typical Houston and Cape Canaveral, Proxima is based overseas at the European Space Agency.  The film takes full advantage of the available training facilities, too.  It’s because of this that the film is among the most realistic in depictions of training.

This film works in two ways.  On the one hand, we see the amount of work that goes into training for the space program.  On the other hand, there’s also the effects that this happens to have on the children.  Yet what’s so surprising is that we’ve rarely seen such a story play out on screen before.  We see the differences in both male and female astronauts.  Some are louder about their families while others opt to hide things.  It shows a difference in the personalities, too.  The fact that Sarah is a mother should have no bearing on the ability to do her job.  Through her lens, director Alice Winocour depicts Sarah as more of a superhero.

The masculine environment is a reminder that Sarah must work harder than everyone else.  Being a woman in the space program isn’t easy.  You have to constantly remind everyone else as to why you belong there.  The film is very feminist in this sense–not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s kind of funny to see a character named Mike Shannon on a space trip that isn’t going to the moon.  I say this as a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  The longtime Cardinals broadcaster is also known as the Moon Man.  This is probably a reference that only a Cardinals fan can truly understand.  It’s certainly one that brought a smile to my face!

TIFF played home to two world premieres of space films by my count.  Lucy in the Sky is about the return from space.  The other film is about going to space.  This film is the better film.

Eva Green lifts off with a truly superb performance in Proxima.

DIRECTOR:  Alice Winocour
SCREENWRITER:  Alice Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron
CAST:  Eva Green, Matt Dillon, Zélie Boulant-Lemesle, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller

Proxima held its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Platform program.  Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.