‘Proxima’ provides a down-to-Earth (literally) look at the space program and the work of a woman in it, though it still feels lacking.
Eva Green has to be one of the most stunning and watchable presences in film. From her breakout role in Casino Royale to her enigmatic character in Penny Dreadful and beyond, Green has become a star. Her recent work with Tim Burton in things like Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children has dampened some of what gives her a charm. Yet still, the actress remains one of the most compelling presences in film. If more filmmakers trusted her as much as Alice Winocour does in Proxima, we would likely be looking at our third decade of Eva Green: movie star. Instead, we get films like Proxima every so often to remind you what we deserve to have.
In Proxima, Green plays astronaut Sarah, assigned to a year-long stint on the International Space Station that she had long hoped for. Sarah’s relationship with her daughter Stella, however, is what keeps her thinking about staying on land. This relationship between a mother with a demanding job trying to balance a family has been done before. In fact, it was the centerpiece of The Truth, which also was at the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema. And while it can’t be said that Proxima reinvents the wheel, it does possess its own charms.
Eva Green is extraordinary as Sarah, a woman torn between too many masters. Sarah’s motherhood is constantly in question by many people in her life, while her co-flyer Mike (Matt Dillon) faces none of the same scrutinies. Sarah’s best relationship in the film might ironically be with her ex-husband Thomas. Thomas doesn’t act like he’s the perfect father for Stella, but he does try. Sarah and Thomas play a co-parenting couple that split out of issues other than hate. Considering how rarely this is seen on film, it is almost a game-changer. The final major player in the film is Wendy, a child psychologist played by Sandra Hüller. After great roles in Sibyl and Toni Erdmann, Hüller displays her dramatic chops here to great success. Wendy acts as the go-between for Sarah and Stella, a role that feels vital in this film.
The quintet of main characters float around each other as the story develops, but it is always Green who shines. The other highlight of the film is the work that Winocour puts into the details of space travel. Proxima never leaves the surface of Earth, yet it still makes space travel horrifying. The script from Winocour and Jean-Stéphane Bron is more about the training for going to space that Sarah attempts. We know that she deserves the chance, but will she handle it? This is the question of Proxima.
Hopefully, people will get a chance to see Proxima stateside. It deserves the watch, and Eva Green is always a treat. But more than that it is the kind of film that people don’t get a chance to see all too often, a space epic about a woman that borrows more from The Right Stuff than from Gravity. A rare gem through and through.
Proxima will likely be released in 2020 in the United States. It premiered at Film at Lincoln Center in March.