Richard Dreyfuss, Krista Bridges, Lyriq Bent, Richie Williams, Colm Feore
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…will evoke tears and smiles in equal measure…
The film world, like the world in general, is an undeniably ageist place. While older, 70-years-plus people feature in films regularly as minor or supporting players, they are rarely placed front and centre, and given meaty, substantial things to do on screen. Thankfully, there are, of course, exceptions to the rule (Michael Caine in Harry Brown, James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold in Still Mine, Clint Eastwood in The Mule, and so on), and now there’s an exceptional new one to add to the list, with Astronaut, starring the great Richard Dreyfuss. You can practically sense the excitement from the star of Jaws, The Goodbye Girl, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, American Graffiti and Stakeout at being gifted such a juicy role, and he rises to the occasion with absolute aplomb, delivering a deeply moving performance that rates up their among his best.
Dreyfuss is Angus Stewart, a seventy-five-year old former civil engineer living with his loving but constantly harried daughter Molly (Krista Bridges), her slightly disapproving husband Jim (Lyriq Bent), and their son Barney (Richie Williams), who stands as Angus’ biggest fan. With his health failing, Angus is eventually shipped off to a seniors’ home, but his intelligence and independence remain undimmed. And when billionaire Richard Branson/Bill Gates-type Marcus Brown (Colm Feore) announces a raffle system to find the right person to fill a seat on his first public flight into space, Angus lies about his age, and sets in motion his lifelong dream to become an astronaut.
Directed with absolute assurance by veteran Canadian/English actress turned first time feature filmmaker Shelagh McLeod (who, not surprisingly, shows a stunning facility for working with actors), Astronaut is a wonderfully bittersweet feel-good film swimming with rich themes and ideas: our treatment of the elderly; the ease with which families can fall into disrepair; the pain of marginalisation; and the power of hope and dreams. Anchored by Richard Dreyfuss’ superb performance (which is met by the rest of the cast), Astronaut will evoke tears and smiles in equal measure while quietly and modestly shooting for the stars.