Release Info London schedule; November 26th, 2019
(Picturehouse Central, Piccadilly Circus, Corner of Great Windmill Street and, Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7DH, UK, 18:20 pm)
(Clapham Picturehouse, 76 Venn St, Clapham, London SW4 0AT, UK, 20:30 pm)
"Lucy In The Sky"
How does life change after such a transcendent experience? What would inspire such disturbing behavior, particularly from someone who’d been the image of space-worthy perfection?
By 34, Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) has achieved her every dream and has to find a new dream. None of this stuff is easy to navigate. And, you know, she spirals out a bit, which is human. Lucy is a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. As astronaut Lucy floats alone in the vastness of space, the blue marble of 'Earth' reflecting in her eyes, she’s overcome with wonder and awe. Precious few ever behold the planet from this perspective. Lucy senses the majestic enormity and relative insignificance all at once. She's an astronaut whose penchant for excellence earns her a coveted spot in the tight-knit boy's club at 'NASA'. But after realizing her dream of going to space, Lucy’s everyday Earthly existence suddenly feels stiflingly small. Back home as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels. Laser-focused on training for her next mission, her life slowly falls apart as she loses touch with what’s real, and what’s really important. That adjustment of having gone up to see the celestial everything and then you come back and go to 'Applebee’s', it’s a very weird transition that seems really interesting. Studies show astronauts can experience personality changes and a feeling of disconnection, and even cellular changes, after spending time in space. For Lucy Cola, that mental unraveling leads her to frantically drive across the country to confront a former lover Drew Cola (Dan Stevens) and his new girlfriend Kate Mounier (Tig Notaro). It's a story of a brilliant and determined woman nearly undone by her own dreams.
The film has three main settings; outer space, 'NASA' headquarters and Lucy’s Texas home. Deep blues and crisp whites denote space; a dash of vivid red and yellow set things apart at 'NASA'; while Lucy’s Earthly life is rich with natural hues of green and brown. As she begins to go a bit mad, the colors brighten. So that when the movie goes to a darker place emotionally, it doesn’t go to a darker place physically. At the beginning of the movie Lucy wants success, to be happy for the fact that she got to do this and to want her to go back to space. The script focuses on Lucy and how her life on 'Earth' changes after seeing the planet from afar. The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, who believes he has psychic abilities but may also be suffering from a mental illness. The film uses experimental visual techniques to convey Lucy’s mental state. One example is treating aspect ratio as a storytelling device, shrinking the frame when Lucy is on 'Earth' and broadening it when she’s in space. When she’s in space, we’re in our widest aspect ratio. But when she comes down, her world shrinks. As she dreams of and trains for her return to space, she gradually loses her personal tethers. Butterworth uses elements of magical realism to show Lucy’s grip on reality slipping. You’re in these crazy places telling these stories, and then you go home and you’re doing the school route and it’s kind of back to normal. The film explores her emotional experience. It’s really to try to get inside her state of mind. She’s facing the biggest questions of life because of this experience of being exposed to the vast nothingness of space. She’s confronting her relationships, her desires and her own major flaws. When you've to look at yourself in the mirror like that, it’s kind of the rawest human experience you can havet, o face your own ugliness.
And literally the film uses the screen as a tool. We go down to a smaller aspect ratio, so suddenly she’s in a box. The intention is to make Lucy’s perspective feel deeply personal, even as she makes illogical and impulsive decisions. We're deeply related to the plight of an overachiever like Lucy. The story’s in a box. The film takes a little license and aesthetic liberty in order to create the perspective from Lucy’s eyes. We're in full widescreen when we’re in space, then when we’re on Earth, we shrink the box. Now the movie is literally more claustrophobic, and she’s living in a world that’s physically smaller. It’s a way to very clearly show the audience what the feeling is. When she’s at her freest and most comfortable, the frame will open up to 240 widescreen. And when she’s feeling more constrained, it closes down to 4:3. The 5:1 aspect ratio is a device that the film uses to show her isolation from the world at large. It helps to feel the difference in Lucy’s emotional state. Another innovative visual technique the film creates is the 'Infinite Zoom' in which character and background appear to move independent. A tiling technique that appears to stretch images to impossible dimensions. The approach is conceived to reflect Lucy’s emotional state when she learns that her grandmother is in the hospital. You know when you've a really traumatic event and you've to go somewhere, and you can’t really remember how you got there because it's all such a blur? So she’ll actually travel from her house to the hospital throughout the 'Infinite Zoom', and the shot continues to take her into her grandmother’s room at the end.
The three most prominent relationships in Lucy’s life undergo dramatic changes after she returns from space, and each contributes to her decline. She begins an affair with her colleague Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamms), leaves her loyal husband Drew Cola (Dan Stevens), then loses her grandmother Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn), the stalwart maternal figure in her life. Mark Goodwin, is the strapping, recently divorced astronaut whose flirtation with Lucy becomes an affair. Much more than the story being about a love triangle or a relationship, it’s really more about how we, as human beings, and especially as people that have seen 'The Earth' from a different perspective; have to adapt to that in our daily lives and how difficult that's. Mark has firsthand experience with how space flight can change one’s worldview. He’s about to go back up into space and he has his fears and doubts about it? How many times can you ride the rocket and survive? So there’s a certain self-destructiveness that he’s going through as well. Mark embodies the quintessential pilot trope; a tremendously confident, take-charge guy. There’s that kind of swagger that comes not only with that but being from Texas, and truly having the pressure of having people’s lives in your hands and needing to get the job done.
In contrast to the swaggering astronaut is Lucy’s endearingly devoted, ever-supportive husband, Drew Cola. Drew is a faithful man in every sense, to his wife, to 'NASA' and to doing what’s right. And when Lucy goes off the rails and leaves him, that fundamentally rocks Drew and the world of his belief. Drew is the guy who has this sort of leather 'BlackBerry' holster, you know, a mustache. The rock in Lucy’s life is her Nana, a hard-drinking, tough-minded woman. Nana raised Lucy to be hard-working, responsible and diligent. Lucy has an ingrained resilience and strength that's endowed from her grandmother. She's someone who's always told by her grandmother that she would have to work harder than everybody else. And she did, and it takes her to space. It’s kind of no-nonsense, no-frills. Get the job done. Lucy develops an unexpected connection with another female astronaut, Erin Eccles, (Zazie Beetz). The character is a role, sort of, in Lucy’s disintegration of self. Initially poised to be adversaries, the two women develop a more nuanced relationship throughout the film. There’s also a point of a deeper rivalry that can exist, too, if there’s a feeling that there can only be one of us and there are so few spots on upcoming missions. It's more of a mentorship than a catfight. Because we don’t need to see that, and it’s not really what this is about. Another key relationship in Lucy’s life is with her 16-year-old niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson), who serves as a grounding reality-check. As Lucy’s world falls apart, Blue Iris is dragged along on this adventure in a way that allows us to see her journey through somebody else’s eyes. We’re watching a little bit of a train wreck with what’s happening with Lucy, and Blue Iris has this beautiful observational quality about her.
Magical realism is the subjective experience that Lucy goes through on her return to Earth. An otherworldly feel through narrative metaphors, like the chrysalis-to-butterfly theme throughout the film, along with experimental camerawork and subtle image shifts that correspond with Lucy’s emotional trajectory. The idea of magical realism is you've to create reality in a way that’s completely realistic and familiar to people. Then when you take these magical turns, these slightly surreal turns, they've real impact. Much of the magic in the magical realism comes through creative camera techniques, including two experimental approaches developed specifically for the film. It's important to bring together all of these technical elements of magical realism the audience is able to go into Lucy’s mind and experience her distorted reality as she does. It really helps us to understand, through metaphors, what she’s experiencing and the struggles she’s going through. When you spend a year in space, every single thing that you do demands constant focus, because if you don’t, you die or someone on your team dies or something catastrophic happens. You get home and you’re completely drained, and it takes a little while to kind of ramp back up into just living a normal life where you’re not hyper-focused. The human experience is kind of always searching; searching for meaning, searching for who you're, searching for relationships with other people.
The transportation captain is a woman. We've a female grip! It’s a female-centric film. In a scenario where the guys with the right stuff, you know, typically have been really daring and done kind of crazy and courageous things, and that’s what makes them fit to be astronauts. And a woman with the same kind of behavior might be called erratic or crazy, where the guys get high-fived for it. It’s a story in which a woman ends up doing things that ordinary people might look down on or judge her for. Because it’s very easy to root for people when they’re making good choices. It’s harder when they’re making bad choices. But that’s exactly the moment when they need empathy the most. The film takes this sort of feminist road, as it explores how gender stereotypes may have affected personnel relations and opportunities at 'NASA'. 'The New York Times' recently reported about the particular challenges female astronauts face at 'NASA' even today as the organization prepares for another moon landing in 2024.