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Friday, June 21, 2024

Spaceman movie review & film summary (2024)

With director Johan Renck’s “Spaceman,” which had its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, a surprisingly subdued Sandler takes a swing at the sad boy space odyssey genre. These are films — “Ad Astra” and “First Man” — about stoic men who use a journey to the outer limits to resist confronting homegrown tragedies involving their children or their own long time daddy issues. Indeed, some men would rather go to space and talk to a giant spider than go to therapy. With Hanus, Jakub does initiate a kind of therapy, talking through his harsh childhood memories and present insecurities in a ruminative space film that is short on majesty but long on empathy.

The first half of “Spaceman,” however, is a chore. We are mostly confined to the cramped surroundings of the spacecraft; the only time we leave its restrictive interior is whenever Hanus probes Jakub’s memories to discover why this “skinny human,” as he lovingly calls him, is so depressed. These flashback sequences are shot by DP Jakob Ihre from the perspective of a spider, oblique and reflective, but nauseatingly limited in their capacity for composing informative frames to give us more than the equally narrow dialogue is providing. The images of space, no matter what the ethereal score is trying to sell, are also quite flat, looking more like purple sludge clouds than awe inspiring remnants of the galaxy’s beginning. The script’s dialogue, adapted from Jaroslav Kalfař’s sci-fi novel Spaceman of Bohemia is rendered repetitively: For a while it sounds like Mulligan’s only lines will be “Where you go, I go.” But then the film finds its rhythm. 

Sandler is quite different here than even his previous dramatic turns like “Uncut Gems” or “The Meyerowitz Stories.” There’s nary a loud outburst or a flash of uncontrollable rage. Sandler’s uncommon ability to mine dramatic grace notes from raw emotion has always been his best tool. So it’s initially a bit perplexing to see that hammer worn down, so to speak. That quiet melancholy is intended. Jakub isn’t really a likable guy. Still consumed by the traumatic memory of witnessing the death of his communist informant father — we’re supposed to believe Sandler and nearly the entire space team hails from the Czech Republic — he struggles to open up and to think of Lenka’s needs. Sandler’s sunken face, his exhausted mien and his rigid body lands the character even if we’re never totally sure why Lenka was ever attracted to him. 

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HomeReviewsSpaceman movie review & film summary (2024)

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