Spaceman Review

Astronaut Jakub (Adam Sandler) realises his marriage to Lenka (Carey Mulligan) back on Earth is on the fritz. Luckily, extra-terrestrial spider Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano) is on hand to help him fix things.

by Amon Warmann |
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The occasionally spotty quality of his filmography means it’s easy to forget that Adam Sandler is one of the most talented actors of his generation. Though there have been some dramatic turns over the years, Sandler is first and foremost a comedian, the mind behind some genuinely hilarious comic classics. There’s none of that signature humour in his latest project, which sees the Sandman morph into the Spaceman, the titular Czech cosmonaut of Chernobyl director Johan Renck’s sci-fi drama. It’s a tale about love, loneliness and connection that is by turns weird, introspective, and beautiful.


Adapted from Jaroslav Kalfař’s book Spaceman Of Bohemia, Colby Day’s screenplay is one part space sci-fi — Sandler’s astronaut is on his way to Jupiter to investigate the mysterious ‘Chopra cloud’ — and one part relationship drama, as Jakub realises that his marriage to his pregnant wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan) back on Earth is crumbling. The link between the two elements is Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano), a hairy, Labrador-sized spider, who suddenly appears on the ship. Studying Jakub’s memories in a bid to better understand humans, he offers some unsolicited relationship advice along the way.

Jakub manages to be sympathetic thanks to Adam Sandler’s restrained performance.

Hanuš’ first appearance is unsettling, but his presence quickly becomes a consistent, endearing highlight. Spaceman’s default setting is gloomy, but what little humour there is comes courtesy of the wise extra-terrestrial. His penchant for calling Jakub “skinny human”, along with his discovery of chocolate, are both chuckle-worthy, and Dano adds subtle vocal inflections to his calm, soothing demeanour when the moment suits. By the time the film concludes, you’ll wish he was your unofficial therapist, too.

Jakub certainly needs to confront some hard truths. At the movie’s outset, he’s an unlikeable mixture of self-involved and withdrawn. It takes Hanuš’ probing for Jakub to acknowledge the root causes of his trauma, and come to appreciate what truly matters. A hug between the two slowly bonding friends is the movie’s high point, a perfect blend of storytelling and craft that belies its bizarre sci-fi trappings. It’s greatly aided by Max Richter’s score: for much of the movie it’s ominous, bubbling away under the surface, but when it comes to the fore in that pivotal moment of realisation, it’s ethereal and stirring, a rich mix of glorious synths and swirling strings.

In spite of Jakub’s unappealing qualities, he manages to be sympathetic thanks to Sandler’s restrained, well-measured performance. And though Lenka is underwritten, Mulligan gives her character some much-needed interiority and agency, a steady drip of flashbacks and scenes set on Earth illuminating how the star-crossed lovers reached this point. Distance may have strained their relationship, but the hopeful ending is well earned.

Come for the wise alien spider, stay for Adam Sandler at his sombre best in this strange, heartfelt sci-fi drama. Here’s hoping he continues to push himself to new highs.
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