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Streaming: Proxima and the rise of female astronaut movies

For too long in the movies – as in life – space exploration was presented as a boy’s realm: brave, lantern-jawed men soaring off to the final frontier while their wives waited and fretted on terra firma. A recent spate of films and TV series have redressed the balance, putting women at the centre of their stargazing narratives – few more stirringly than Proxima (multiple platforms), a superb astronaut character study from the French director Alice Winocour that gives Eva Green the role of her career.

Proxima got a UK cinema release in July, but amid pandemic uncertainty never found the audience it deserved. Now, VOD should serve as a reintroduction to a film that combines compelling space-station activity with a frank, straightforward feminist message. Green plays Sarah, an ambitious astronaut and single mother surprised to receive a last-minute invitation to join a European Space Agency mission to Mars – the realisation of a lifelong dream, but one that necessitates a year spent apart from her eight-year-old daughter Stella (the delightful Zélie Boulant).

It’s a tough, heart-tearing conflict, played by Green with raw, vulnerable integrity as Sarah battles not just her daughter’s resentment but the cool condescension of the men on her mission. Winocour hasn’t written her as a colourless, real-life wonder woman. Mixing grounded anxieties with cosmic wanderlust, Proxima recognises that feminist heroes can make human mistakes and reveal weaknesses en route to greatness.

It’s a long way from the less evolved space-hopping of Roger Vadim’s riotous Barbarella from 1968 (free to stream on Amazon Prime), in which Jane Fonda was nothing if not a good sport as a sparkly swimsuit-clad United Earth government rep sent to save humanity. It

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