The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
I was especially excited to see Proxima for two reasons. The first is that Eva Green stars in it, and she has been one of my favorite actors since I saw her in Casino Royale (2006). The second is that Proxima was written and directed by Alice Winocour, whose career I’ve been interested in since I saw Mustang (2015) which she co-wrote. Add into the mix that Proxima is a movie about space, and I was completely sold.
Alice Winocour hits the mark with Proxima. She deftly flits between the two sides of her protagonist's journey of going to space and being a mother. For the most part Winocour handles the emotional side quite well, only venturing into the overt a few times. She handles the technical side of training very effectively, showcasing the amount of time and energy spent on a project of this scale. Winocour displays a great habit of shooting her protagonist in hyper-realistic ways, unafraid to showcase both her strength and her vulnerability. Sarah is a real person, capable of high levels of focus and intelligence, but Winocour isn’t afraid to showcase Sarah’s breakdowns in a very real and raw fashion. Overall, a great directing feat for Winocour.
Sarah (Eva Green) is balancing the job of being a mother to her young daughter Stella (Zélie Boulant) while also engulfed in a rigorous training program in preparation for a mission to Mars aboard the International Space Station. Her relationship with Stella is a sweet one, and you can tell she is trying to create some sense of normalcy for her daughter. She is separated from Stella’s father, Thomas (Lars Eidinger), but he is in the picture and takes care of Stella when Sarah leaves for training. There is a push-pull narrative wherein Sarah wants to focus on her career and her training but often gets preoccupied with worries about her daughter. The story flits between Sarah’s extreme training in order to go on the mission to Mars and her duties as a mother. She has to run 15 kilometers a day, endure high pressure underwater training scenarios, and be subjected to extreme g-forces. In between her training sessions she calls Stella and watches videos of her daughter to get updates on her life. At its core, the movie explores how mothers must navigate and balance a demanding career with raising children. Proxima has space exploration as the larger context, but the more focused themes are on humanity and motherhood.
... Left You Considering The Human Spirit While Yearning To Gaze Up At The Stars
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Eva Green is the glue that holds the movie together. She is in almost every scene in some capacity. Green proves that she is more than up to the task, putting in a subtle yet hard hitting performance. It might be the best performance of her career. She oscillates between being in control, confident, and cool under pressure at work and then shifts into worrying mode when it’s time for her to be a mom again. Green displays a wide range here and you become invested in the story largely because of her performance. Zélie Boulant is incredible as Stella. You feel for her as she is participating in something she doesn’t fully understand yet. Boulant’s worried eyes feel haunting at times and you can see why Sarah has such a hard time leaving her. The supporting cast is equally as effective with Matt Dillon playing astronaut Mike Shannon. He starts out as a bit of a sexist jerk but throughout the movie softens and builds a nice friendship with Sarah. Sandra Hüller and Aleksey Fateev round out the supporting cast with nice performances as well.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Ryuichi Sakamoto handles the score for Proxima and creates an emotional and tense backdrop for the movie to intertwine with. Sakamoto also did the score for The Revenant and won an Oscar for his work on The Last Emperor (1987). He works his magic for Proxima too and creates a haunting and emotional experience.
Despite being a space mission, Proxima never actually makes it to space. However the visual effects and design are quite incredible. The movie is very technically precise, and you feel completely immersed in the world. Sarah dons several astronaut space suits for training and you see each step of preparation involved in a mission of this scale and size. There is one scene where a rocket takes off and the visuals here were fantastic despite being shot from further away. The overall design of each scene makes you highly aware of the environment you’re in and the pressure on Sarah to perform.
Proxima wound up being a much more in depth character study than I had anticipated. The relationship between Sarah and Stella drives the narrative forward. Sarah is torn between being a mother and chasing after her dream of going to Mars. There’s a moment early on in the film where Sarah recalls her own mother saying that going to space was not a job for girls. Throughout the movie Sarah is at odds with her decision to pursue this goal at the expense of having to leave Stella for an entire year. You get the sense that perhaps Sarah is not only aching to prove to herself that she can do it, but she is also trying to set an example for her daughter: pursue your dreams, whatever they might be. Proxima was a complex and powerful film that left you considering the human spirit while yearning to gaze up at the stars.
Vertical Entertainment Will Release PROXIMA on VOD - November 6th, 2020