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EIFF 2019: Astronaut (2019) starring Richard Dreyfuss

N.B. This film is not on general release in the UK at present. It was shown at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday 22nd June 2019.

Dreaming of outer space

Richard Dreyfuss plays Angus, an elderly former geological surveyor whose health is ailing rapidly. His great passion in life is to look up at the stars and dream that he’s there amongst them. He lives on a donkey ranch with his daughter Molly (Krista Bridges), son-in-law Jim (Lyriq Bent) and grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence).

One day, he sees the opportunity to fulfil his dreams when a wealthy entrepreneur named Marcus (Colm Feore) sets up a lottery offering one lucky winner the chance to go up on the world’s first commercial space flight. There is only one snag: the age limit is from 18-65, with Angus falling well into his 70s. Nonetheless, he decides to enter anyway under the pretence that he’s just within the age range.

He’s initially overjoyed when he discovers that he has been selected for the shortlist. However, when he arrives at the launch centre, he soon makes a discovery that could potentially point to a serious safety risk.

Watch a trailer:

Dreyfuss makes this film

Astronaut is a fairly typical “awards bait” type of movie. It revolves heavily around the classic “dying man wants to fulfil one last long-held wish” trope plus a showy performance by a veteran actor (in this case, Richard Dreyfuss). Thankfully, Dreyfuss himself (who also executive produced) is strong enough to hold the viewer throughout and should, by rights, bag at least one or two trophies for his work here.

What about the rest of it? Well - it isn’t bad by any means. Shelagh McLeod’s direction is rather routine and resorts to some overly derivative heartstring-pulling tactics; spot the obvious lift from Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler near the end. The whole subplot about our ageing protagonist finding a life-threatening defect that everyone else has somehow missed also seems a little far-fetched. Nonetheless, it’s enjoyable enough and the supporting cast is worthy, especially Barney as Dreyfuss’s character’s devoted grandson and Art Hindle as his cranky buddy from the old folk’s home.

Richard Dreyfuss and Richie Lawrence in Astronaut

The whole thing reminds one a little of the 1980s hit Cocoon. It’s not exactly a rip-off of it by any means but it certainly has a few similar aspects. Thus, if you have fond memories of that film and/or you are a fan of Richard Dreyfuss then Astronaut is worth the voyage.

Runtime: 91 mins

Dir: Shelagh McLeod

Script: Shelagh McLeod

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Lyriq Bent, Colm Feore, Krista Bridges, Art Hindle, Richie Lawrence

Rating: ☆☆☆

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