Directed by Nicols Giraud, The Astronaut is a beautifully-told story of a dream that has united a family through generations: going to outer space.
The stakes are high yet incredibly believable, blurring the audience’s mind into forgetting that the story is not based on real events and making the picture a strong contestant for the Glasgow Film Festival’s Audience Award.
The proposition, which Giraud so vividly delivers, is that of meritocratic access to space which is not only reserved to the highest corporations.
Set in the French countryside, The Astronaut tells the story of a man, Jim (portrayed by the director, Nicolas Giraud), whose sole passion is outer space, which he shared with his late grandfather.
He works as an aeronautical engineer for Ariane Espace, however, his dreams of going to space were crushed when he didn’t pass the ESA (European Space Agency) exam, coming in 3rd out of 4,500 applicants.
Through an extremely delicate and slow-paced story-telling, the audience is transported into Jim’s mind, one that is isolated from the World and obsessively devoted to one major secret project: building and conducting the first amateur rocket ship in history.
We learn Jim does not have many friends or much of a social life, as he has spent the majority of the last eight years in his beloved grandmother’s garage, perfecting his design and “borrowing” materials from his workplace.
Perfectly following the French school of film, The Astronaut does not present a vast script but rather voices emotions through images. The cinematography, in fact, uses the iciness of the wintertime to match Jim’s initial distance from others, later warming up once he realises his ambitious project cannot be achieved without the help of others.
Here is where we meet retired astronaut Alexandre (Mathieu Kassovitz) who, after a life-threatening accident during his last mission, handed back his white uniform for a quiet life in the mountains.
When Jim first knocks on his door asking for his guidance and supervision, he is reluctant to do so, for the dangers that come with this mission are too many. However, his mind is quickly changed, as Jim’s passion and devotion wear off on him.
The last addition to the team is confident and optimistic Izumi (Ayumi Roux), a recently graduated mathematician with an imminent desire to join a big project. Although her young age and bubbly personality made Jim doubt her capabilities, her impeccable calculations prove to him that she is the missing piece of the puzzle.
The audience is involved in every step of the mission, leading to the final climax which is the launch of the rocket and the concerns that come with it, making the final scenes hard to watch.
However, it soon becomes clear that the team’s hard work will pay off, as the mission proceeds smoothly. The picture concludes with the extremely touching scene of Jim spreading his grandfather’s ashes into the ocean of emptiness, signifying the realisation of their shared dream.
Featured Image Credit: Glasgow Film Festival