[Fantasia 2019] Astronaut is What Dreams Are Made Of

19 Jul

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

* North American Premiere at 2019 Fantasia Film Festival.
* Opens theatrically July 26 (select cities)

Richard Dreyfuss is the Astronaut in Shelagh McLeod’s debut movie about old age, dreaming big, faith, and making it into the stars. This actor is well known for such classics, namely Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Both movies helped prepare him to take on a tale about not slowing down.

This actor deserves award recognition for his performance. Angus’ (Dreyfuss) desire to keep going is much like how Sammy Hagar inspires with Van Halen’s song, “Dreams.” Although he is in the twilight of his years, he does not want to be put in the pasture. His grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence) knows it. They also both love stargazing and enjoy talking shop. When considering the elder was a civil engineer, he knows a lot of science relatable to how the universe works, life and everything else. No, the answer is not 42. Nor should it be a marker to gauge against in achieving life’s goals.

Try as Angus does to warn the Ventura Corporation about the airfield they are using to fly their new shuttle to space, nobody is listening. Part of this movie moves like a tale about Chicken Little. His daughter Molly (Krista Bridges) initially ignores his channeling of Hooper (from Jaws). She’s more concerned with moving him to an old age home. Her husband Jim (Lyriq Bent) is torn between trying to support not only his family but also identify with the old man.

As much as I wanted to see more story about shuttle flight and the goals for returning to the moon, the plot is about the family falling apart. The quest to fly high and leaving all those worldly concerns behind is secondary. The tale also speaks about the generational desire to get there–perhaps in the same style as Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. I even detected a few notes from Robert Zemeckis’ Contact.

When considering we are in an age where private enterprise is leading the charge in when mankind will head back into the stars, just when more startups allow the everyman to take flight is food for thought. Despite a few predictable moments to keep this story going, the third act had me glued like I was watching an early Apollo launch broadcast. I’m well aware of what’s needed to prepare spacefarers for entering that great beyond. This double meaning is also hinted at since it’s obvious what Angus fate will be.

McLeod’s experience in front of the camera gives this film a simple sentimental charm. Ultimately, this work is about daring to dream. The part which hits home is in how legacies are defined. Instead of shoving the elderly into a home, we should be there for them to hear their stories and their hopes. That way, we will always be reminded of them whenever that falling star streaks across the sky.

4 Stars out of 5

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