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‘Astronaut’ Review: Dir. Shelagh McLeod (2019) [Fantasia 2019]

Astronaut review: An old man dreams of visiting the stars in the heart-warming and endearing latest film from actor Richard Dreyfuss. 

Richard Dreyfuss first caught audience’s attentions back in 1975 when he starred as Hooper in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Forty-four years later Dreyfuss is still hard at work in front of the screen, although his latest film Astronaut is rather more sedentary than Jaws. Angus (Dreyfuss) is a widowed elderly man suffering with various health complaints. Currently living with his daughter, her husband and his grandson, Angus is at somewhat of a crossroad in his life. Having lost direction, he’s coasting through life, that is until he hears about a lottery being held by Marcus (Colm Feore), a billionaire entrepreneur. The contest, open to those aged 18-65, is to win a ticket on the first civilian trip to space. Having always dreamed of going to space, Marcus, with help from his grandson, lies his way into entering the lottery, but will it work?

Astronaut has a very calm, serene feel to it. In many ways it plays like a movie of the week, the ones that are on TV in the middle of the day, but that doesn’t diminish its worth. Sometimes it’s really enjoyable to watch a film that is simply nice. A perfect film to watch with all the family, Astronaut is slow and gentle and doesn’t ask too much of its audience. It’s the kind of film you can all sit on the sofa with on a rainy day and all have a pleasant time. Yes it’s a little twee and saccharine, and wears its heart on its sleeve, but that makes it endearing rather than irritating. It helps that Dreyfuss is playing our lead Angus, and his Hollywood charm spills forth; he makes what could easily be a cantankerous old grump, a lovable figure that will remind many of their grandfathers.

Where the film gets a little wobbly is in the details. The story begins with Angus and his grandson watching a passing comet. The comet proceeds to pass for the duration of the film which has a timeline of weeks if not months. Then there are some questionable decisions regarding the shuttle that will bamboozle the scientists watching. The big issue though is that, in reality, Angus’ entry into the lottery would not progress anywhere near as far as it does in the film. It’s fiction of course, so that last point can be forgiven a little.

Several of the plot and technical points are pretty far-fetched, so you’ll need to suspend a healthy amount of disbelief and logic to enjoy the film. That aside, Astronaut is warmhearted tale that will entertain all the family.

Astronaut was reviewed at Fantasia 2019.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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