Search icon

Movies & TV

01st Mar 2024

Netflix has just added one of 2024’s biggest sci-fi movies

Stephen Porzio


It features a massive star in the lead role.

Upon learning that Adam Sandler is starring in a new Netflix movie called Spaceman, you’d be forgiven thinking that the film is a sci-fi comedy or that Sandler was attempting to pull a Liam Neeson by making a later career pivot into action fare.

As such, there will probably be many fans of the Sandman that log into the streaming service to check out the movie only to be bewildered to find that it instead is a very expensive looking, thoughtful art film in the vein of Solaris – one that uses the premise of a spaceman drifting alone in space to explore ideas regarding loneliness, emotional repression, love and connection.

Based on the novel Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař, Sandler plays Czech cosmonaut Jakub who begins the story 189 days into a solo space mission to collect mysterious dust on the edge of the Solar System. To do this, he left his pregnant wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan) alone on Earth.

Profoundly upset by his absence, Lenka cuts off communication with Jakub, with the latter’s commanding officer (Isabella Rossellini) and technician (Kunal Nayyar) making excuses for the spaceman’s wife’s lack of communication.

Already struggling with the isolation – Jakob is referred to as “the loneliest man in the universe” in a press conference – Lenka’s silence causes the cosmonaut’s mental health to spiral further.

This is to the extent that when Jakub is confronted by a massive, terrifying spider-like creature on his ship, he is unsure whether it is real or a figment of his imagination. The extra-terrestrial (impressively realised and memorably voiced by Paul Dano), however, claims to mean no harm.

In fact, possessing strange otherwordly abilities and a deep curiosity regarding human emotions, the creature could become key to repairing Jakub and Lenka’s relationship.

Spaceman’s lack of action or Sandler’s typical slapstick (this is him in his quieter but still commanding Punch Drunk Love or The Meyerowitz Stories register) will probably pose a challenge to Netflix viewers looking for some simple escapism. That said, the movie is sure to strike a chord with some thanks to its gorgeous visuals and profoundly human story.

Director Johan Renck (best known for helming all of Chernobyl) – aided by cinematographer Jakob Ihre – smashes together beautiful 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque scenes of Jakub floating around his sleek looking spaceship with emotional scenes of his wife on Earth reckoning with the prospect of raising her child alone, along with kaleidoscopic flashbacks to Jakub’s traumatic childhood and to his happier days with Lenka.

Combined with Colby Day’s script, which uses the space setting as an allegory for the type of person who would put their career over family or shut themselves out of love and happiness out of fear that it could one day could be ripped away from them, the film gradually evolves into an overwhelming sensory experience designed to provoke tremendous feeling in the viewer.

Indeed, it is entirely possible that Spaceman could attract a cult following just based on people turning it on just to bask in its melancholy atmosphere, almost like ASMR.

The movie’s genuine emotional sincerity feels like a breath of fresh air in an era of less personal blockbusters – though for those not on its wave length, it could serve as a deterrent to enjoying it. And indeed, there are moments where the spider creature’s musings on humanity or the flashbacks to Jakub courting Lenka may flirt with ponderousness or pretentiousness.

But in a time when many of Netflix’s major films draw criticism for their formulaic nature and generic visuals, Spaceman stands out – serving as an example of the type of big, fascinating risk you want more of from the streaming giant.

Spaceman is streaming on Netflix right now.

Read more:

LISTEN: You Must Be Jokin’ with Aideen McQueen – Faith healers, Coolock craic and Gigging as Gaeilge