Spoilers have to touch everything.
This one might not only require a specific audience, it also requires said audience to be in the mood. I think I left this film in my wishlist for a long time until I was just in the mood to watch it. That might be too tall an order. This movie is a human story with some science-fiction in it, but that’s about it. It does borrow from other sci-fi movies, but at its core it’s a human drama. I also should warn you it’s a very slow burn that does not necessarily work up to any particular climax. If you’re expecting something, you might as well pick another cup of tea.
The Midnight Sky (2020) was directed by George Clooney based on the screenplay by Mark L. Smith. The story is from the book Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. A scientist named Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) has opted to stay behind in an arctic research station that is being evacuated. Earth, after an unspecified catastrophe, is becoming inhospitable with dangerous radiation levels. People are migrating to underground bunkers. Augustine, who has a a rare blood disease, is willing to die alone. His last act is to attempt to contact returning spaceship Aether who is coming back after exploring K-23, a moon of Jupiter that Augustine discovered years ago.
The crew of the Aether is formed by Commander Adewole (David Owelowo), Sully (Felicity Jones), Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), Sanchez (Demian Bichir) and Maya (Tiffany Boone). As crews go, they’re a very family-like one. Sully and Adewole are a couple and Sully is pregnant. The film transitions between present-day Augustine, young enthusiastic Augustine talking about K-23 as an alternative for life, and the crew of the Aether as it makes its way back to Earth unbeknownst than most of the planet is now irradiated.
To make things just a little challenging for our lone scientist, Augustine finds there’s someone else left on the station. A young girl (Caoilinn Springall) has somehow been left behind. Unable to contact anybody to pick her up, Augustine is forced to shared his time with the child, who doesn’t say a word. Based on a flower drawing, Augustine guesses her name is Iris.
The movie does seem to be trying to give us a couple of tense moments as Augustine is forced to leave the research station to find a more powerful antenna to reach the oncoming spaceship. Meanwhile, the crew of the Aether faces their own perils when they are deviated off-course and must trace a new course to Earth, going through their own challenges. Cinematographically, it’s very nice to look at. However, most audiences might fail to engage with the character as the pace is unhurried, despite some tense scenes.
Only recommended if you’re in the mood for a slow paced drama where contemplation is the first thing in the menu. It can be both a gorgeous film and a rather moody one, with rather sparse moments of emotion and only a few thrills. Clooney himself keeps his performance rather serene to the point of seeming cold, but there’s some humanity there. Or perhaps it was just my imagination.
That will do for now.