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.
Source: The Guardian