[Review] ‘PROXIMA’ a shining procedural drama with a sincere mother-daughter story at its center

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

PROXIMA

Not rated, 107 minutes.
Director: Alice Winocour
Cast: Eva GreenZélie BoulantMatt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger and Sandra Hüller

Remember that emotional scene in Interstellar when Matthew McConaughey’s character receives decades’ worth of messages from his children? That scene hits like a ton of bricks. Imagine stepping away for a few minutes only to come back and realize years had gone by. You missed your child’s first bike ride, first love, and all the moments that made them into this person you no longer know. 

French Filmmaker Alice Winocour’s lowkey space mission movie, Proxima, is all about that fear. Fear of separation. Fear of missing your child’s biggest moments. As one great scene in the film puts it: the hard part is not leaving our planet but returning to learn that the world turns without you.

Proxima doesn’t have the blockbuster budget that Christopher Nolan’s movie did. Winocour’s film isn’t centered on the activities that happen above the clouds. It’s all below them, on Earth. It chronicles the courage, spirit of adventure, razor-sharp focus under pressure, and the incredible sacrifice of one astronaut and mother — portrayed by Eva Green, in one of her best performances. 

We’ve all been fascinated by what happens among and beyond the stars. Proxima shows that as much as we desire to explore the far reaches of space (in this case, Mars), no amount of training can truly prepare you for making one giant leap into parenthood. 

The mostly French-language film, still with a significant amount of English, immaculately captures the process that space cadets undergo until takeoff. We’ve seen our fair share of these moments in other films and television shows, but Proxima homes in the space between our cerebral walls. Green’s character, Sarah Loreau, must detach herself from her daughter (a very good Zélie Boulant) if she leaves Earth. It’s the mother-daughter relationship that serves as the film’s center of gravity. 

Winocour takes it a step further by inviting us into the daily battles Sarah faces in an unforgiving world, one where there’s a constant push from the male environment, and women must prove their worth as men’s equals. This notion is put into motion quite early when her chauvinistic American colleague, Mike Shannon (a perfectly cast Matt Dillon), comments on how Sarah makes a great addition to the team because her French cooking will come in handy.

The film doesn’t get preachy about it, either. There’s a great deal of subtlety loaded into its boosters. Even though the story breaks into narration, its light and it doesn’t rob the film of its power. Some scenes operate similarly to Terrence Malick’s work — especially when Winocour has her central character walk around with a camcorder to shoot the simple pleasures of Earth, like toes in the dirt, grass fields, and water.

Proxima is a very intimate movie. With its poet’s eye, you can feel the love among its characters as well as grasp the film’s complexity. It’s about stripping away the mythology and looking at these ordinary individuals gearing up for these extraordinary circumstances. This sincere mission will bring you down to Earth and open your heart in profound ways.

Grade: B+

Vertical Entertainment will release the film on digital and VOD platforms on Friday, November 6.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.