We all have times where we just want to escape from the realities of the world. Whether it’s due to a personal tragedy, general malaise, or anything else, the appeal of just going off the grid is not lost on almost anyone. So, the idea behind Space Oddity, that a wayward soul would see a colonization mission to Mars as a way to avoid confronting the past has major potential. That only some of it is realized in Kyra Sedgwick‘s feature directorial debut is a shame, but enough of it works to warrant a somewhat light recommendation. Playing at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, it’s the sort of movie that works best in this sort of an environment, where it can quietly work and not have to linger in your mind for too long.
Space Oddity has enough charm, due to the leads, but it is a surprisingly indifferent affair at times. It suggests that Sedgwick might be more at home helming drama than something that mixes tones here (also judging from her prior television work), but it’s not a misfire, just a mixed bag.
Alex McAllister (Kyle Allen) is going to Mars. No, not with NASA, as they’re not ready yet in this near future, but a private company planning the first colonization mission to the red planet. Seeing Earth as a lost cause, at least in part due to the recent death of brother, he’s been training for the selection process, advancing to the finals. His mother Jane (Carrie Preston) embraces whatever gets him out of bed, while his hardworking farmer father Jeff (Kevin Bacon) wishes he would take over the family business. Alex is only focused on space, at least until he falls in love.
The training for Mars focuses in part on isolation, but when he sees Daisy (Alexandra Shipp), the new girl in town, he’s smitten. She works at the insurance company that he needs to have cover him on the mission, but she’s quickly interested as well. As much as this should give him pause, he presses on, which doesn’t just bother his parents and sister Liz (Madeline Brewer), but obviously Daisy too. Still, Alex seems determined to get off of Earth as soon as he can. It’s probably not shocking where this is all going, but watching it get to that place does have a decided appeal to it.
Kyle Allen is an actor I like, so a leading role here fits him well, considering his charm. His chemistry with Alexandra Shipp is tremendous, with their scenes often being the highlights of the film. Allen keeps things low-key, which makes his character never come off broadly. Shipp is a vision, though luckily never winds up in a Manic Pixie Dream Girl type of situation. Supporting players, aside Kevin Bacon, Madeline Brewer, and Carrie Preston (all fine but under-used) those mentioned, include Simon Helberg (doing a cartoonish Russian accent), Arden Myrin, Andrew Polk, and more.
Kyra Sedgwick makes her feature directorial debut here (after having helmed a bunch of TV), utilizing a script by Rebecca Banner. The tone is a bit all over the place, with odd dips towards comedy and drama, but it has a ton of heart. Space Oddity works because Banner and Sedgwick invest you in Alex’s story. I will say, this does suggest a future behind the camera for Sedgwick in regards to the big screen, even if there’s an uneven element to this effort.
Space Oddity isn’t going to bowl you over, but it does more right than it does wrong, that’s for sure. As one of the more minor efforts at Tribeca this year, it’s going to entertain you, before fading from your memory. As long as you’re cool with that, this is a worthwhile viewing experience.