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Movie Review

“I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.”

Astronaut Michael Collins spoke those words as he orbited the far side of the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Decades later, upon returning to Earth after her first space expedition, these words are repeated to Lucy Cola. But Lucy didn’t mind the solitude of space: “Just a few more minutes,” she pleaded when they told her it was time to go.

Now that she’s back on Earth, and despite her insistence that she’s fine, Lucy is having a hard time readjusting to terrestrial life. Picking up her niece from school, caring for her elderly grandmother, having dinner with her husband … it all just seems so small and mundane after experiencing the vast, celestial beauty of space.

Lucy is determined to go back, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. But her husband, Drew, just doesn’t get it. Sure, he’s proud of her, and he can appreciate the wonder of space; but he doesn’t understand why she yearns so profoundly to return to such complete isolation.

In fact, the only person who does seem to understand is fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin. Having gone to space himself, Mark recognizes why someone might have such a deep desire to return to that void. Spotting a kindred spirit, Lucy enters into an illicit relationship with him behind her husband’s back.

Unfortunately, as the next space expedition grows closer, Lucy’s resolve to prove herself winds up being her downfall. Her enthusiasm comes off as desperate, and her superiors notice that she’s becoming more and more unhinged.

But even as things continue to spiral downward, Lucy doesn’t take a break. Instead, she makes it very clear just how far she’s willing to go to get what she wants.

Positive Elements

As a female astronaut who has completed a space mission, Lucy serves as a strong role model for her niece, Blue Iris. Nana, Lucy’s grandmother, encourages their relationship and tells Iris to look to her aunt as an example of strength and success. Drew, for his part, stands in as a father figure for Iris. Though they’re not related by blood, he continues to care for Blue Iris even after his and Lucy’s relationship takes a turn for the worse.

Lucy’s strong work ethic is admirable. She encourages other female astronauts and maintains a positive attitude even towards the more tedious aspects of her job. She demonstrates her willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty during a training exercise when her helmet fills with water. Rather than returning to the surface, she completes the mission and holds her breath underwater for two minutes.

Spiritual Content

Drew says grace as their family sits down for dinner, thanking the Lord for their many blessings and asking for God’s continued presence in their lives. Later, he tells Lucy that he prays because he is scared for his wife’s safety in space, especially since she wants to risk her life to go again.

Elsewhere, Lucy wonders why God would create something that has to destroy itself in order to fly (though it’s unclear what she means by this question). A man compares love to believing in God, calling both a “trick.” A cross hangs from the rearview mirror of a car. Someone says “Godspeed,” as astronauts launch into space. Someone has a hallucinatory experience about a dead grandmother.

Sexual Content

After coming home drunk, Lucy kisses her husband and asks him to join her in their bedroom, implying that she wants to have sex.

A woman claims she’s done lots of “tawdry s---” and kisses a man to prove it. They make out while lying down in the back of a pickup truck. A woman kisses a man while sitting in his lap. An act of oral sex is visually implied. (We don’t see anything critical, but it’s clear what’s happening.) A couple discusses the mental complications of sex before going off camera to engage in the act.

Two couples kiss. A man flirtatiously shows a woman how to bowl by standing behind her and guiding her arms. A woman kisses a man, but he awkwardly does not kiss her back and pulls away. A woman’s workout shirt shows some cleavage.

A shirtless man watches TV. A woman lies on her husband’s lap.

Violent Content

A woman threatens a man in his car and sprays him in the face with insect repellant. He drives off but hits several parked cars along the way. A woman stands on the edge of a building after being cornered by police, and it’s suggested that she might jump (which she does not).

Lucy tells a story about how her grandmother shot three men who were chasing her dad with axes. (The first man was shot in the leg as a “warning,” and it is implied that the other two were killed.)

A man watches a rocket launch explode on his television. An extended plot point involves a gun and someone’s intent to use it. A woman purchases rope and duct tape, seemingly to use them on another person. Lucy grabs another woman in desperation; although Lucy doesn’t physically harm that woman, she’s frightened enough to run away.

A woman dies in the hospital while several doctors surround her bed, trying to resuscitate her. A butterfly cocoon gets destroyed as wasps crawl out of it.

Crude or Profane Language

The f-word and s-word are used about a dozen times each. “P-ss,” “a--,” “a--hole,” “d--n,” “h---,” “d--k,” and “darn it” are also heard once or twice each. God’s name is misused at least three times, and Jesus’ name is taken in vain once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Nana, despite being on oxygen, smokes cigarettes—a behavior that Lucy enables rather than challenging. It’s also suggested that Nana is an alcoholic when Lucy tells her that “drinking’s not a hobby.”

Adults drink wine, beer and shots of hard liquor. Lucy has to be driven home after getting too inebriated to drive herself. She stumbles into her home drunk more than once and joins a coworker drinking during work hours.

Other Negative Elements

Lucy repeatedly lies to her husband about working late in order to cover up her affair. When Drew eventually discovers her deception and tries to ask her what the truth is, she gets offended and storms off. In a final confrontation, she admits that there is someone else and leaves, taking Iris with her.

Iris and Lucy’s fathers are both described as deadbeats. Additionally, rather than taking responsibility for her increasingly erratic and questionable choices, Lucy blames men for setbacks in her career and in her personal life.

Lucy recounts a story in which her father urinated in a gas tank. A man instructs his children not to tell their mom that he let them have brownies. A woman breaks into her coworker’s office to read his emails.

Conclusion

Lucy in the Sky is loosely based on the real-life events that led to the arrest of former astronaut Lisa Nowak in 2007. Nowak allegedly drove across the country to assault and kidnap the girlfriend of her former lover—fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein. While the events of Lucy in the Sky differ in several key ways, the overarching idea is the same: An astronaut, scorned by love and struggling to readjust to life back on earth, attacks another person in a state of increasing mental desperation.

This “Astronaut Love Triangle” (as Nowak’s infamous story was dubbed in 2007) as it’s depicted here strives to generate sympathy for Lucy. But while her relational descent is certainly tragic, it remains difficult to truly sympathize with the selfish and immoral choices she makes.

At the beginning of the movie, Lucy is at what she considers the peak of her existence (“I never felt so alive”). But when she returns to Earth and realizes that she is experiencing an existential crisis, she refuses to get help. Instead, she ignores her husband’s attempts to connect with her, refuses therapy and engages in an extramarital affair just to “feel” something. (An affair that, while not as explicit as it could have been, is still in R-rated territory—as is the film’s profanity.)

Lucy justifies her increasingly erratic behavior because she believes that if she returns to space, everything will somehow be better again. “I was born to do this. It’s all I have,” she tells her boss. And while her superiors try to empathize with her situation, it’s also clear that they take every step possible to make it better.

Ultimately, Lucy’s permanent descent from the heavens is the result of her own self-destructive choices and narcissistic stubbornness. And this drama’s descent into pretty messy content will push it out of movie-viewing orbit for many viewers.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Natalie Portman as Lucy Cola; Jon Hamm as Mark Goodwin; Zazie Beetz as Erin Eccles; Dan Stevens as Drew Cola; Pearl Amanda Dickson as Blue Iris; Ellen Burstyn as Nana Holbrook; Colman Domingo as Frank Paxton; Jeremiah Birkett as Hank Lynch; Joe Williamson as Mayer Hines; Jeffrey Donovan as Jim Hunt; Nick Offerman as Will Plimpton; Tig Notaro as Kate Mounier

Director

Noah Hawley ( )

Distributor

Fox Searchlight

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 4, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Emily Baker

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
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