Apollo 10 1/2: A Space-Age Childhood Movie Review – An Ode to Man’s Spirit to Survive and Thrive Come What May

“First, let me tell you about life back then”

Richard Linklater is back to rotoscoping and in triumphant fashion. The American filmmaker has a different penchant for making films, which has been shown numerous times in his diverse filmography.

However different the works are from each other, they all have one thing in common: a longing soul. Waiting to go back to a forgotten era, or revisiting a dissolved memory. No one does it better than Richard Linklater.

With ‘Apollo 10 1/2’, he outdoes himself. Loosely based on his own memories, the film recreates the burgeoning ’60s and ’70s in Houston, America, a place where “science-fiction came to life”.

The center of America’s space revolution affected the lives of each and every person in NASA’s vicinity. Through Stan – our protagonist’s eyes – we see a changing world in every expanse of life; culture, food, science, cinema, nothing remained as it was. Except for constants like middle-class frugality and the indelible hypocrisy of political democracy.

Linklater and his team do a wonderful job bringing all of that back to life in a forty-minute long montage that is easily the best part of the film. A case could even be made for that specific montage becoming a film of its own; and a pretty good one at that, too.

Considering what’s going on in our world today and how adversarial the image of everything in our minds is, Apollo 10 1/2 attempts to bring some calm over us. Becoming a part of his plot-less adventure is a soothing feeling, often lost in today’s fast-moving and commercialized art form. 

The vivid detailing of Stan’s life in Houston is upended by the part that follows the montage. Stan, a 10-year old boy, was chosen to man a lunar capsule that NASA miscalculated for the Apollo 11 launch. Hence, the name “10 1/2”. But was this mission real? Absolutely not. Real in the minds of kids growing up in America, especially Houston, in the ’60s? Definitely, yes! Wouldn’t that have been the fantasy of every kid from that era?

That is what Linklater captures so beautifully through the film. His nostalgic experiment, though, is more than just harkening back to one of humanity’s greatest achievements and the challenge of a changing world. It transcends those bounds in a bid to reconnect the viewer with oneself and others around them.

Stop here and ask yourselves a question. Can you recall a peculiar detail about everyone and everything that matters to you in the world in a moment’s time? Can you describe the things around you -that you have seen all day long – without looking at them again? The age of self-absorption and consumerism has made us walking zombies.

We have almost forgotten the ease of living in a normal world where the world’s problems didn’t matter much, as long as we had each other. Sure, technology has made it easier for us and it probably would have been lapped up by the kids back then if they had an option. But the point is that they got by. And got by happily. 

Visually, the film is flawless. The imperfections in the frames make it more appealing than computerized digital iterations like it. The beautiful coloring fills the screen with vibrancy and such warmth, that it is hard not to get lulled. Linklater finds rhythm in the most mundane of things. He makes them worthwhile; the sole focus of our attention.

As well as describing it all from Stan’s child-like perspective, Linklater often warps the animation to give it a surreal feel, like a distant dream, showing not just how Stan experienced those events, but also how he remembers them. The animation and editing teams deserve all the credit for their ingenious work on the film. 

The best part about Linklater’s message is that it is all under our control. Our choices dictate how we will remember the time spent here when we look back at life.

Apollo 10 1/2 might be, on the face of it, tailor-made for American audiences, in the same way, that Malgudi Days was for Indian kids. But does that make either of these any less enjoyable for us? Probably not. Finding a film this impactful is rare. Years from now, it will be remembered as a classic. Arguably, the best film I have seen this year!

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  • Verdict - 9.5/10

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