Friday 3 September 2021

Movie Review: Lucy In The Sky (2019)

A mental stress drama, Lucy In The Sky explores trauma prompted by a literal out-of-this-world experience. The film evokes a mood of psychological bewilderment but frustratingly fails to follow through.

NASA astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) returns to Earth after a space shuttle mission, feeling exhilarated but disoriented. Suddenly her old life with perpetually cheerful husband Drew (Dan Stevens), a space program marketing specialist, appears small and insignificant. All her life Lucy was driven to overachieve by her Nana (Ellen Burstyn), and now all she can think of is qualifying for a future mission and returning to space. 

She starts a torrid affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm), who understands her feelings but may also just be looking after his own needs. Lucy is competing with younger astronaut Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz) for a spot on a future mission, but program director Frank Paxton (Colman Domingo) notices Lucy's increasingly erratic behaviour, leading to a crisis.

Inspired by the true story of astronaut Lisa Nowak, Lucy In The Sky is perhaps overly constrained by real-life events. The screenplay by Brian C. Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi, and director Noah Hawley contains tantalizing hints of a compelling drama, and Hawley plays with aspect ratios and weaves trance-like imagery into Lucy's daily life to capture her memories of space and sense of loss amidst earthly minutia. Natalie Portman contributes with a gritty and committed performance.

And yet with all the raw material in place to explore a brilliant overachieving mind going to pieces after exposure to space's grandeur, the film refuses to step into the difficult conversations. Crucially, the script never allows Lucy to express herself, leaving it to others to explain what she is experiencing. She remains stranded in a manic search for meaning, while Joe Hamm as Mark Goodwin gets a couple of scenes to eloquently describe the disconnect between the thrill of riding a rocket and the pettiness of day to day life. 

Most tellingly, Mark's repeated viewing of a seminal disaster tape on the eve of his next mission provides a blood-chilling emotional highlight. By sidelining the protagonist from any such moments, Lucy In The Sky appears to lack conviction in its own core.

Instead Lucy spirals towards a poorly defined Quixotic cross-country journey with her niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson) in tow. Her lunatic drive does represent a mind in the throes of crashing and burning, but Lucy In The Sky is satisfied with demonstrating a mental collapse, but not genuinely discussing it.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.


  1. This was an awful film and an example of what happens if you make a movie based on real events and not play into its humor. You get something that is extremely unwatchable. I love Natalie Portman but man she was terrible in this. Plus, Noah Hawley should never make another movie ever again.

    1. I did enjoy the premise, mood, and style; but it could have been much better.


We welcome reader comments about this post.