‘Spaceman’ movie review: Adam Sandler cannot save gloomy sci-fi affair

A still from ‘Spaceman’ 

A still from ‘Spaceman’ 

According to Netflix’s description and genre, Spaceman is a sci-fi drama. According to me… it’s anything but.

Johan Renck’s (we know him as the director of the hit show Chernobyl) new directorial has a dreary premise at the very outset, and never really kicks into gear. Based on the 2017 novel Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař, this film follows Jakub Procházka’s (a very woebegone Adam Sandler) physical and spiritual journey to outer space.

Jakub is six months into a solo space mission. He is sent there to investigate what everyone in the film calls a ‘Chopra Cloud,’ a mysterious cloud of dust he is supposed to collect. A few minutes into the film, it is shown that he is struggling with loneliness, and misses his pregnant wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan) whom he left alone with a lot of unresolved baggage.

Lenka is now thinking of leaving him, and Jakub doesn’t know this yet because his commanding officer (Isabella Rossellini) makes sure he doesn’t get the messages; however, the spaceman still realises something is amiss.


Director: Johan Renck

Cast: Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyar, Lena Olin, Isabella Rossellini and Paul Dano

Duration: 107 minutes

Storyline: Six months into a solo mission, a lonely astronaut confronts the cracks in his marriage with help from a mysterious creature he discovers on his ship

When he is aimlessly floating around the 1960s-looking vessel being lonely and bitter, a spider turns up. This ancient creature (voiced by Paul Dano) is telepathic and a certified therapist, or at least behaves like one. Hanuš, as Jakub calls him, delves deeper into the latter’s thoughts, makes him realise his cause for loneliness and tells him where he went wrong with Lenka: he left her alone to deal with life.

A still from ‘Spaceman’

A still from ‘Spaceman’

Unfortunately, Spaceman suffers from an identity crisis that it never solves. There are American and English actors playing Czech roles, Jakub has confusing flashbacks of his father who supposedly did “bad things” and was on the “wrong side of history”, and Lenka’s character lacks depth.

We also don’t know enough about his childhood to imagine what he went through with his father, we don’t know enough about Lenka to be there for her, and we certainly don’t understand how they fell in love, why she never left him, or why she came back to him in the end.

Even though Sandler as Jakub looks nothing like the ‘skinny human’ as Hanuš calls him, he gives it all; with some Sandler-like humour, this film would have easily wafted into the space of an enjoyable sci-fi drama.

Mulligan, as we all know, would have been brilliant with better writing and more screen time. Paul Dano’s mellifluent voice makes up for the otherwise sombre music. The supporting cast also includes Lena Olin and Kunal Nayyar; Nayyar’s love for space-related characters seems to be going strong years after The Big Bang Theory ended.

Remember the emotional relationship between Aragog and Hagrid in Harry Potter? Heartwarming, right? This emotion between the arachnid and the human in Spaceman gets lost somewhere in space, much like the whole film itself, to never return.

Spaceman is currently streaming on Netflix

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