‘The Longest Goodbye’ Review: – The Hollywood Reporter

You would be hard-pressed to find a fictional depiction of long-distance space travel that doesn’t focus on the psychological weight of isolation and claustrophobia. It is the seed of everything from Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” to movies like Moon and alien to many episodes of Twilight Zone and more For all mankind.

Maybe in the deepest parts of the galaxy we’ll encounter rays of sunlight that could destroy equipment, alien settlements or whatever happened in that movie with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, but a more tangible threat might simply be loneliness.

The longest goodbye

Key point

Rushed, but mostly efficient.

Check out Ido Mizrahy’s Sundance premiere documentary The longest goodbye then, as a prequel to every sci-fi story ever told. An exploration of NASA’s realistic efforts to grapple with what was previously the terrain of whimsical myths, The longest goodbye sometimes encounter access problems and not enough time to expand its strongest themes. But the questions the documentary and its themes are raising are compelling, emotionally weighed and, with some overarching content.

Mizrahy’s investigation began with NASA on the brink of further developments in space flight. Somewhat stalled for decades, our focus is on building the International Space Station, but many presidents have promised to return to the moon, soon followed by the first staff mission. first to Mars.

It’s a process that has prompted a rethink of how we include the astronaut side of the program. Anyone who has read or seen The right tool know that the first astronauts were test pilots, daring adrenaline junkies who skipped a psychological test and were chosen for their ability to make decisions in a split second during double missions. when it only lasts for hours. Astronauts today are expected to work toward a possible three-year journey to Mars and back.

“It’s a technical culture,” says Dr. Jack Stuster, who has been called a “human factors expert.” “Soft, weak people are completely unfathomable to engineers.”

That’s where Dr. Al Holland, the documentary’s true hero, comes in. Holland is a psychologist in the Houston area who was brought in by NASA to oversee a fledgling psychological readiness team, studying the factors that could lead to problems jeopardizing the mission; find out the criteria for selecting astronauts who will face those problems; and seek solutions to protect tasks that cannot be eliminated or reduced based on individual mental breakdown or interpersonal conflict.

Mizrahy and writer-producer Nir Sa’ar take us from the recent past to the present and the future to highlight what contingencies we’ve actually prepared for and what solutions are available. Which is still speculative fiction.

The documentary has the strongest foundation in the first two timeframes. Towards the recent past, we have Cady Coleman, who spent six months on the ISS in 2007, when her son Jamey was in fourth grade. Along with numerous recordings of their webcam interactions from that time, Cody and Jamey offer their differing views on trying to maintain a family relationship after a long absence due to the absence of a family. Technological delays as well as discomforts and insecurities are normal.

In the present, we meet new astronaut Kayla and her husband, Tom. A former submarine officer, Kayla is the role model for the kind of astronaut Holland is looking to hire — she’s funny, introverted, and she and her husband have a solid bond. But what happens when they can’t talk daily, weekly or face-to-face?

It is here that Mizrahy shows where we stand on ideas that science fiction devotees are well aware of, but there are still various stages of work in progress. Holland’s expanding team includes experts in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and even travel hibernation, which won’t bring family members back to earth, but will save the astronauts from spending months away from – perhaps a pun – travel.

Mizrahy doesn’t have identical access to each part of this story and it shows. While Cady and Jamey appear throughout, Kayla and Tom look like they’re going to be the center of the movie, but since she’s spent most of the time filming actually in space, their storylines are a bit off. malfunction. Then, when it comes to the forward-looking aspect, it’s clear that we’re a long way from usable virtual reality and usable AI — no offense to the floating sphere called CIMON — compared to movies. and TV have shown, and no one has given any indication of how long it might take before astronauts can be effectively “refrigerated” for their voyages. The documentary moves away from realistic alternatives that might work in the short term.

Sometimes the footage from the space station or from the training is excellent, but without it, Mizrahy wouldn’t be very good at offering alternatives. There are a couple of unimpressive CG representations of deep space, but it’s a development effort that adds nothing. When the movie turns to an anecdote about a stressful situation in a Mars simulator on Earth, Mizrahy resorted to half-baked re-enactments and eventually gave up — too bad because it was a story. good.

These limitations hampered the documentary as it neared its end with its 87-minute cut short. The movie never figured out how to tie its ideas together into a larger conversation about what could make any human feel more connected in an increasingly isolated world.

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