You’re never too old to follow your dreams…
Astronaut which is the debut feature from actor (and now writer/director) is a slight but ultimately delightful affair that reminds us to never stop living and proving that we have value no matter how many candles end up on your birthday cake.
Angus (Richard Dreyfuss), a lonely widower, has his long-extinguished dream to become an astronaut reignited when a national competition is announced; The prize? One ticket for a trip to space! Way over the age-limit, Angus alters his birth-date so he can enter the competition. Against all odds, but with help coming from his dysfunctional family, he must battle against preconceptions, ill health and time, to win the ticket and take the trip of his dreams.
While Astronaut is hardly going to reinvent the cinematic wheel it’s a delightful and well told family friendly story that gives its lead to work on some genuine humanistic material with both sly humor and real emotion.
This film marks the feature debut of Shelagh McLeod as a writer/director after spending years either in front of the camera or trotting across theatre boards all across the world and while it’s hardly the marked debut of a long suppressed storytelling voice, she’s certainly been around the business long enough to know what the hell she’s doing. The narrative has genuine flow to it from beginning to end, doesn’t try to insert any unnecessarily cinematic shots in for the story and is aware of its scale making sure the visual effects are used sparingly. I know some of this seems overly simplistic but it takes some with genuine talent to full know the kind of story that they are telling and stay in that lane. The main characters are well developed enough to hold our interest and while a little fluffing up could have been used for some of the supporting players, this is one of those stories that manages to ride formula and convention while slightly bucking against it all at the same time.
The great and underrated Richard Dreyfuss is quite good here as our hero Angus. It could have been written in a sappy way, but this man this has some life left in him even though he knows and sees his body breaking down along with control of his outside circumstances. He gets his moments in as the charmingly craggy old guy and the material plays well to his strengths. Thankfully Colm Feore as the industrialist running this contest and taking people into space could have been done in a really generic swath of just being an incredibly rich and successful weirdo but actually was done with some nuance and care as well.
I would have liked to have seen more from his family, although Lyriq Bent is certainly coming into his own as a character actor but Krista Bridges as his daughter seemingly only had one note to work with. Meanwhile as we see Angus transition into the assisted living home the cast of characters around him which include Art Hindle and Grahame Greene really don’t have much to do other then frame both Angus, Jim (Lyriq Bent) and his grandson Barney (played by Richie Lawrence) and the hijinks which transitions into genuine drama around trying to get him into space.
Sure it all wraps up in a happy ending, but it’s a very wholly earned one as Shelagh McLeod’s Astronaut which is having a limited theatrical run this week along with launching on VOD.