Proxima – TIFF 2019 Review

Alice Winocour may just be one of this decade’s most under-appreciated directors. Her body of work and unique personal tales of the human struggle, often times sheds a few tears from some of her harshest critics. Her latest piece, Proxima, is no exception. Dealing with a multilingual cast of characters, Winocour’s highly detailed experimentation of language and raw live-footage, is a positive departure stylistically, from her previous work. Her last two features, Disorder and Augustine, are dark and grim pieces of fictionalized accounts. Proxima, while being a completely fictional story, feels life-like; as if the audience was watching the film’s family from afar. It’s a grueling, hyper-realistic experience, that takes the backdrop of STEM training to a whole new level. 

The thing about Proxima is that is barely has a consequential narrative. The sequence of events is quite simple; a recently divorced woman takes on a one-year intergalactic stint, as her young daughter, is left back on earth. The film never explores the mission, nor necessarily does it even care about it. What’s truly the primary focus of Winocour’s vision, is the dynamic between Sarah – the mother, portrayed by the extraordinary Eva Green, and Stella – the young daughter, portrayed by french child actor Zélie Boulant. Their chemistry is infectious, and feels natural with the surrounding series of events. The film does take some rather conventional turns for the worst though, when the chemistry between the two characters slowly starts transforming into some rather expected and predictable conversations on mortality, and survival in space. These chats often ruin the personal nature of the film, as if it was an empty square on a checklist of family-drama cliches. 

Thankfully, the atmospheric tone and consistent sense of melancholy sinks into the film like an infectious disease. Proxima is beautiful, and you can’t help but admire the world we live in, after viewing this film. Sakamoto’s score is contemplative; a musical meditation of nature and the beauty of earth. Winocour’s direction is inspiring; a heavily detailed recount of events that will stagger audiences with depressive undertones! I’m glad that Winocour is further playing with ideas of lust and transcendent love, as she did with co-writer Deniz Gamze Ergüven on Mustang (2015)! 

I highly doubt that we’ll get a film like Proxima anytime soon. It’s a special film that holds no bounds in captivating it’s audience with images of forgiveness and separation anxiety. Whilst cliches are sprinkled throughout what is essentially a near-perfect rendition of a journey, which many female parental astronauts need to face time and time again; the cold and quaint execution is the real reason why Proxima holds solid ground in the first place.

Proxima screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The film is currently seeking North American distribution.

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