Thursday, 24 September 2020
CAREER-DRIVEN mothers the world over face a struggle to juggle their careers while raising their children.
This is the exact scenario tackled by French director Alice Winocour in Proxima, which stars Eva Green as an astronaut preparing to travel into space.
While she undergoes a rigorous and psychological regimen, her young daughter Stella, played by Zelie Boulant, stays at home.
Green plays Sarah Loreau, a French astronaut, who is fluent in English, German and Russian, and is thrilled to be picked for a trip to Mars alongside Russian cosmonaut Anton (Alexsey Fateev) and macho American Mike (Matt Dillon).
The latter is sexist and does his best to undermine Sarah at every turn while she struggles to come to terms with the stress of the training, separation from her daughter and her complex relationship with her ex-partner Thomas (Lars Eidinger).
The story is set inside the real facilities of the European Space Agency, with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet making a guest appearance.
Winocour focuses on the reality of astronauts getting ready for lift-off as we see Sarah getting put through her paces, withstanding
G-forces in a centrifuge, wearing heavy spacewalking gear underwater, running 15km a day and trying to keep her heart rate down.
Green plays a career perfectionist who is determined to show no emotion when she’s on the job to demonstrate that she is ready for space travel but she begins to lose her cool as she becomes increasingly anxious at being away from her daughter for an extended period.
As the story unfolds we see how thoughts of her daughter cause her to slip up at key moments while at the same time being the one person who is keeping her going.
As the scenes jump back and forth between work and home, we see how the mother-daughter relationship is driving events and provides a reminder that juggling a career and parenthood is exhausting.
Winocour’s previous efforts, Augustine and Disorder, also dealt with characters torn between their professional and private lives, often with them clashing, but with Proxima, she expands her characters.
As the sheer scale of separation deepens, it’s the twin performances from Green and Boulant that give the film its heart.
Boulant helps bring the best out of Green, whose emotional performance is rich in both power and subtlety that means we never question her character’s resolve.
Indeed, it’s hard not to be moved by the stark reality of life for many women trying to get ahead while being a mother.
10 August 2020
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