As lockdown 2.0 plods on and Christmas grows ever nearer, millions of us around the world will begin our, entirely virtual, Christmas shopping because what the hell else do we have to do? If your Christmas is anything like mine, you’ll likely give and receive a number of DVD’s and Blu Ray’s, because let’s face it, owning physical copies of films is just more satisfying than scanning aimlessly through streaming services. With a decreased film output this year, many of you will be wondering what films are out there that are worth purchasing? Fortunately for you, I’ve seen a fair amount of the best films 2020 has to offer, many of which you may not have even knew existed. One such film that I recommend putting on your Christmas list is Alice Winocour’s space drama, Proxima.
Proxima tells the story of a single mother and soon to be astronaut, Sarah Loreau, played by Eva Green, and her daughter Stella, played by Zélie Boulant-Lemesle. Sarah is about to make her childhood dream come true as she prepares to embark on a yearlong mission aboard the international space station. Despite arranging with Stella’s father to care for her whilst she is gone, being apart from one another proves difficult as Sarah and Stella are practically inseparable. Sarah soon finds herself in a bind, as her intense training schedule takes its toll on her relationship with Stella leading her to question if she really has what it takes to be an astronaut and a mother.
This film is a beautiful homage to maternal love and the emotional human journey space exploration has on female astronauts that are also mothers. Eva Green is excellent as Sarah Loreau, delivering an authentic performance that hits the most perfect emotional tones, whilst also having excellent screen chemistry with her on screen daughter, the equally brilliant, Zélie Boulant-Lemesle. The film hinges on their relationship and both actresses work exceptionally well together, bringing to life engaging character dynamics and an endearing relationship that pays off perfectly in an emotionally satisfying final act. However, as satisfying as the ending is an as perfect as the leading ladies are together, Proxima does suffer from a rather weak second act.
Writer, director Alice Winocour throws all her eggs in one basket with Sarah and Stella’s relationship, which despite being absolutely lovely, does result in the film dragging rather heavily in the second act, due to its incredibly narrow focus. The film could have benefited from expanding its focus by exploring some of the films other characters such as Sarah’s crewmates Anton Ocheivsky, played by Aleksey Fateev, and specifically Mike Shannon, played by Matt Dillion. Mike comes across as a sexist asshole for much of the film, but then has a rather heartfelt moment later in the film which, due to his presentation thus far, is hard to accept as the sincere moment it turns out to be.
Not only this, but the film could have potentially shown more of Stella’s perspective, considering her character is so integral to the film. Granted, she is a fairly well explored character, however, as the film does focus so heavily on her mother, the film could have provided a bit more insight into how she processes the fact her mother is not just leaving her, but the entire planet for a whole year. This forces Stella to make hard adjustments as she must move home, school and learn to make new friends. This is incredibly compelling perspective that has the potential to be even more insightful and entertaining than that of Sarah’s. I believe with further exploration into Stella’s experience, Proxima could’ve solved it saggy second act problem and become a truly outstanding space drama.
Overall, Proxima is a beautiful look at an ordinary struggle to do something extraordinary. With excellent performances and on screen chemistry from Eva Green and her on screen daughter Zélie Boulant-Lemesle, the film survives a saggy middle due to an emotional conclusion made all the more satisfying thanks to its complete commitment to its protagonist. The script could’ve done with one or two more drafts to further explore its supporting cast to fix its second act problem, but nonetheless Proxima is a winning story not of one small step for man, but of one giant leap for womankind.
Proxima is available on DVD, Blu-ray & VOD on November 23rd