Set in April of 1986, Spaceboy is a colorful and cutesy French film very much in line with the works of Wes Anderson. Space-obsessed 11 year-old Jim (Basile Grunberger) moves to a new town with his astrophysicist father (Yannick Reiner) and immediately clashes with some of the kids at school. When he is grouped with outcast Emma (Albane Masson) for a science project, the two connect instantly. Jim has the idea of recreating Kittinger’s balloon jump, and they secretly begin working on a real-life giant air balloon. What’s wrong with stealing helium from your local conservatory? Jim and Emma become inexplicably entwined as the project morphs into a defining milestone for them both.
This movie is bubbling over with adorable coming-of-age moments of quirky glee. Silly projects for the science fair include a “makeup machine” and a “floppybook” (essentially film forums). There is an adorable scene where Jim is trying to show off a catapult, but ends up using it on himself. The friendship between Jim and Emma is so cute, and every second they share together feels special. Emma’s condition becomes more important as the film progresses, where at first, it is only hinted at. Jim grapples with a devastating realization about his father, all while seeking guidance from his trusty companion, a little electronic spaceman. Each of the children’s stories are nuanced and detailed. They provide more depth than you would find in many American family films.
There is a lot to love in Spaceboy, and thankfully, the ending is just as bizarre and contemplative as the rest of the film. It leaves you with much to think about when the credits roll. The emotional payoff of the climax satisfies and thrills as a giant, explosive culmination of everything that came before it. Powered by an 80s-style synth soundtrack, stellar acting from the child leads and a narrative that oozes warmth and comfort, Spaceboy is an eye-popping indie delight.
Spaceboy screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival, April 15th – April 28th, 2021.