Sarah Loreau (Eva Green) is an astronaut training for a year long mission to the International Space Station in a bid to research the next planned mission to Mars. Whilst she undergoes her training she is separated from her eight year old daughter Stella (Zelie Boulant).
Proxima is a beautifully realised drama that focuses on two facets of Sarah’s life. The incredibly hard task of completing her preparation to go into space and fulfil her life long dream and the need to still be the loving, considerate mother to her daughter that she wants to be whilst she is separated from her.
The training scenes were filmed at the real training centres of the ESA (European Space Agency) and are fascinating to watch. Seeing people in centrifuge machines experiencing G forces is not unusual, but seeing extended scenes of underwater space walk practice and using running machines whilst suspending at ninety degrees is really interesting. We also get to understand the intensity of training and the intricacies of ensuring the team are quarantined from the world.
The other side of the film that focuses on parenthood is where the film really becomes something special though. Sarah and Stella’s bond is palpable and the increasing realisation that they will be apart takes its toll on both of them in different ways. Whilst Sarah is separated from Stella’s father they are capable of co-parenting whilst she is away but it does require Stella to move and find new friends adding more strain.
The only weak link in the film is American astronaut Mike Shannon (Matt Dillon) who seemingly is there to underline the sexism that exists in all environments. He gets to bluntly suggest that Sarah should perhaps have a lighter training schedule before slowly being persuaded that she is capable of her role. It is a small gripe in an otherwise engrossing film.
A space film that never sets foot in space but is still a fascinating watch.