Out this week in cinemas is First Man. From acclaimed director Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy this film tells the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
Set during the 1960’s when the space race was at its height, the Soviet Union versus the United States, First Man follows Neil Armstrong from the formative years until the legendary event on July 20th, 1969.
At the centre of the story is Neil Armstrong (Gosling). The audience learns many unknown truths about the man. The many losses in his life, his incredible willpower, and his troubling disconnect with those closest to him.
The Man who fell to Earth
Gosling is a remarkable leading man. He commands the screen with his dominating presence and requires little dialogue to convey how he feels in each scene. It’s a fascinating talent and is likely the reason why director Damien Chazelle continues to work with him.
The character of Neil Armstrong is so pent up that his emotions are internally destroying him and you see flashes of emotion come through and when it happens Gosling brings down the house.
With Gosling leading this cast is Armstrongs other half Janet (Foy). She is quite a force. She has to deal with so much being a part of this world with her husband and the people around him. Janet states in the film she gravitated to Neil because he was so normal. Fast forward several years and she’s listening with terror in her eyes as her husband is hurtling around the planet.
Foy is phenomenal, playing a different kind of wife archetype we’ve seen in the usual astronaut films. Janet does not care about the mission, she cares about her family, and what is happening to them over the course of this film. She sees what is happening to Armstrong. Janet then has to pick up the pieces each time he’s knocked down and it’s crushing watching their relationship disintegrate due to this.
This brings me to the direction of First Man and a theme I felt runs through the entire film, death. While watching the film I couldn’t help but notice that no matter what happened to Neil, whether it be a personal or professional tragedy or training accidents that he was involved in he kept going.
In my opinion, what director Damien Chazelle was doing was showing one man trying to reach to the heavens to connect with the people he has lost over the years. This is due to the fact that during the film audiences learn there were many deaths surrounding Neil and he always had to survive them.
With him trying to reach the moon he is trying to find them up there in the heavens. The score adds further credence to this theme with its ethereal beauty. Composer Justin Hurwitz brings a dreamlike element to the space fairing scenes and it is a powerful and emotional additional to the film as a whole.
First Man is a surprisingly melancholy film. Damien Chazelle captures the character that was Neil Armstrong and that was someone who did not lead a Hollywood lifestyle. He was not a rock star, he was a father, a husband, an astronaut and he was the first man on the moon. This is a great film. Check it out next time you’re looking for a night out at the cinema.