Space Oddity is not only my favorite film of 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival, it also happens to be one of the few I actually saw in theaters. Audience reactions aided in making this a charming communal film with a beautiful message behind it about living life to the fullest. In our post-Covid times, there has never been a sentiment I needed more. Filmed on location at Robin Hollow Farm in Rhode Island, the film captures the beauty of nature, blossoming flowers, landscapes, and riveting rom-com vibes with a dash of deep sadness thrown in for good measure. Space Oddity is an absolutely incredible dramedy that doesn’t need to go to another planet to impress.
A drought is coming, and it may be time to finally sell the family farm. Alex (Kyle Allen, West Side Story, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things) is the next in line to take over for his overworked father Jeff (Kevin Bacon, Footloose, Friday the 13th), however Alex is committed to a different cause entirely. From the very first scene, Alex insists that he is going to be part of the first colony on Mars. He has been rigorously training for weeks, and video chatting daily with his future coworker for Mission Mars program, Curtis (Andrew Polk, The Many Saints of Newark, House of Cards). Alex is right on the cusp of fulfilling a childhood dream he shared with his recently-deceased brother, Tom.
That mission to Mars is notable in that it is strictly a one-way trip, meaning Alex will have to leave his entire life behind and be prepared to die on the distant planet. To make matters more complicated, Alex gets his family together—phone-obsessed sister Liz (Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale, Hustlers), emotional mom Jane (Carrie Preston, True Blood, Claws), and father Jeff—to announce he will soon be leaving for ten years of isolated training in preparation for this program. Liz especially is shocked at Alex’s announcement and convinced to do anything in her power to sway his mind. Jane meanwhile remains pretty supportive, if skeptical, and Jeff doesn’t even believe Alex will go through with it. Liz becomes Alex’s PR person for his crazy Mars dreams as the local news barges in to cover his story.
Is there any way to make Alex see reason? One day heading into town, kids shooting mini-marshmallows at Alex accidentally hit Daisy (Alexandra Shipp, Tick Tick Boom) instead. Thus, a meet cute is born. The next time they will meet, Alex hits Daisy in the face with a paper airplane by accident. Daisy is handling Alex’s life insurance policy, as well as randomly running into him in the town square. Daisy has just moved to town, and once had great dreams of being a swimmer. The duo begin to hang out on the regular, attending first aid training courses and gazing up at the stars to wax philosophical. A coupling this sweet and innocent practically made me smile ear to ear. Alex and Daisy hit it off—Allen and Shipp share a charming and natural chemistry with one another.
The ensemble cast soars, with strong acting from literally all involved. In addition to the main cast, Dimitri (Simon Helberg) and local TV newswoman Lisa (Arden Myrin) leave their mark. It helps that casting is so immaculate; the McAllister family is fully-formed and entirely believable. Their grief is reflected in every iota of unspoken language about Tom. Perfectly paced, Space Oddity makes the smart decision not to show Tom at all, not even through photographs. In this way, his memory exists deeply to the characters, and the viewer can use their imagination in forming the idea of him through gestures and dialogue. For me, having lost someone so close to me recently, moments such as the awkward non-acknowledgment of Tom over a family dinner to the obsession with a dream Alex and Tom shared as children simply ring so true.
Kyra Sedgwick directs from a script by Rebecca Banner that lovingly dips its toes in social commentary and self-love. As Alex and Daisy slide deeper into their love, questions begin to arise as to Alex’s ultimate decision-making process regarding his fierce commitment to Mission Mars. My favorite sequences are the quiet ones that ripple with beauty—a beach-set giggle in the waves and another where the duo bond over getting “joy from a bug’s ass lighting up” are clear stand-outs. Kyle Allen and Alexandra Shipp lead one of the best rom-coms I have seen in a very long time. For three kids that grew up being dubbed The Inventor, The Queen, and The Conqueror due to being named after famous historical figures, the McAllister family is a fictional one I would absolutely love to spend a weekend with. Space Oddity is perfect reminder to any viewer that our seemingly meaningless existence may not be so meaningless after all.
Space Oddity went star-gazing during 2022’s Tribeca Film Festival.