Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

This tough-yet-tender drama set in Paris’s projects will fly you the moon

The feats of Yuri Gagarin – the first human in space – transcended Cold War rivalries. There’s a statue of the Soviet cosmonaut down by Admiralty Arch in London, and in the Parisian suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, a whole housing estate is named after him – or was. Cité Gagarine was demolished in 2020, but it’s central to this unusual blend of realist drama and sci-fi fantasia, where life and dreams mix in strange and soulful ways.

Alseni Bathily is Youri, a Black teenager whose mum has left and who lives alone on the estate. He finds can-kicking pals in Houssam (Jamil McCraven) and Romany girl Diana (Lynn Khoudri). But his first love is stargazing, daydreaming of journeys to match those of his Russian astronaut hero. First-time filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh realise those reveries with documentary footage and disembodied audio of space travel that begin a slow blurring of the boundaries between life and imagination.

Bathily is terrific as Youri, a young man with nowhere to go but up. He furtively builds his own space-aged world in his now-abandoned block – something akin to a set in Silent Running – as it is gutted around him. The two co-directors bathe it in ultraviolet light (amusingly, Youri’s UV lamps draw in the local weed dealer, moth-like), all but decoupling Gagarine from gravity with fluid camera moves and trippy transitions. If the ending is signposted, Youri’s earthbound journey to the stars offers a stirring escape from an unjust reality. Like his Russian sorta-namesake, he’s a hero we can all get behind. 

In UK cinemas Sep 24.


Release details

Cast and crew

Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh
Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh, Benjamin Charbit
Alseni Bathily
Lyna Khoudri
Jamil McCraven
Denis Lavant
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