Normally I stay away from stories about outer space and spaceships. Star Wars is the least favourite of my movie franchise. And Lost In Space has me lost. Last year the series Away featuring the amazing Hillary Swank showed the human side of a female astronaut’s life. Beyond the ‘roger’ and ‘copy that’ there is a life that these outer space explorers leave behind.
Stowaway is filled with longing and desire, an urgent hankering for human contact in a mission to Mars. There are only three members in this 2-year mission , when a fourth suddenly makes himself visible. How did Michael (Shamier Anderson) get there? It is not important how he came to be on the spaceship.What needs to be looked into is, how can he stay on a board when there is limited oxygen on board?
It is a rather staggering coincidence that oxygen and its absence is a looming threat to life on this drama of desperate survival. We all know about that , don’t we? The writing( by director Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison) is more pre-emptive than futuristic, more ‘now’ than later. It has a certain limited luminescence in the way the characters reach out to one another in their time of abject solitude.
The very accomplished Toni Collette(whose praised performance in the hit horror film Hereditary was in my opinion, undeserved) plays the ship’s commander with a steely determination, while Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim are the other two members of the team. The director takes little time in establishing the equation among the three. Like I always say, put accomplished actors on the screen and leave them to their own devices.Director Joe Penna desists from over-directing his actors. Their relationship grows organically from the plot.
The precious bonding of the trio is suddenly under pressure when the stowaway reveals himself. As the stowaway , Shamier Anderson is vulnerable and provocative. This relatively unknown actor delivers this precious tiny film’s best performance, though clearly the actor controlling this fragile film on hope and humanism is Anna Kendrik. She controls not only the progression of the plot but also the destiny of the other characters. Her function and role in the climax is heartstopping in its intensity.
Though shot in a Covid situation with just four characters locked away on a set(albeit a very authentic one) Stowaway never gives off the feeling of being small or compromised in scale. Though largely dialogue-oriented the canvas suggests an epic bigness of scale and emotions., probably because director Joe Penna is a guitarist and knows how to use that stage to communicate the essence of life.
Image source: Medium
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