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Astronaut review – care-home resident shoots for the stars | Film


A likable performance by Richard Dreyfuss livens up this easygoing drama about second chances and late-life adventure from actor-turned-director Shelagh McLeod. Dreyfuss plays a retired civil engineer who, all his life, has dreamed of going to space and is now in with a chance of winning a golden ticket. The role is a nice mirror to Close Encounters, in which Dreyfuss ditched his wife and kids to fly off with the little green men.

Here he is a family-oriented man who nursed his wife through dementia and is adored by his grownup daughter. He has lived a good life but perhaps stifles a pang of regret at the average-ness of it all. It’s a film of tender feelings, though perhaps a little predictable and bluntly sentimental.

Dreyfuss is Angus Stewart, a 75-year-old with a dodgy ticker living in a nursing home. His face subtly registers the indignities of the care home regime: dinner at the nursery appointed hour of 5pm, tickings off from staff who talk to residents as if they were naughty puppies. It’s Angus’s grandson who persuades him to enter a lottery to win a seat on the first commercial flight into space, which is being bankrolled by an obsessive tech billionaire (Colm Feore). Of course, Angus makes the shortlist of 12 finalists.

In a minor way, the plot becomes unexpectedly timely; experts are split on a life-and-death matter. Angus, an authority on road surfacing, spots a major safety issue with the flight runway. Who will the billionaire trust – his team of expensive consultants or the old timer?

It’s a big-hearted if formulaic tale, with a few plot implausibilities: for instance, at one point Angus sweet talks his way past security at the launch site’s barbed wire gate. And, for a movie that is making a point about how the wisdom of older people is overlooked, its care home residents come dangerously close to looking like patronising stereotypes.

Astronaut is available on streaming platforms on 27 April.

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