A female astronaut returns to Earth and starts a downward psychological spiral in the first trailer for Lucy in the Sky, a forthcoming film from Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Lucy in the Sky tells the story of married astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman), who has an affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm). When he dumps her for another woman in the program, she begins to lose her grip on reality. Originally titled Pale Blue Dot, the movie is the feature-film debut for director Noah Hawley, whose TV credits include Fargo and Legion. Reese Witherspoon was initially considered for the lead role of Lucy but dropped out to shoot the second season of Big Little Lies. Portman came aboard instead, making this at least her second song-titled film alongside Jane Got a Gun.
The film is loosely based on the real-world case of NASA astronaut and US Naval officer Lisa Nowak, who became involved with fellow astronaut William Oefelein in 2004 after his divorce. The affair lasted a couple of years, until Nowak discovered her lover had taken up with an Air Force engineer named Colleen Shipman. In February 2007, Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando International Airport with a car full of kidnapping gear (including an 8-inch folding knife) and confronted Shipman in her car in the airport parking lot. Nowak copped a guilty plea in 2009 and received two years’ probation; she also received an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
The case notably raised questions about the psychological effects of long-term space missions, in addition to how well NASA screens its astronauts for mental stability, themes that clearly inform Lucy in the Sky. That’s earned the film some advance criticism for its stated premise from retired astronaut Marsha Ivins about how Hollywood misrepresents female astronauts: “Hollywood may consider spaceflight traumatic, and certainly our mothers do, but astronauts do not,” she wrote for Time in 2017.
Granted, the film was still being cast when Ivins wrote her article, so the criticism was premature. But I’m not sure there’s anything in this trailer that will put her concerns to rest. We first see Lucy during a spacewalk, mesmerized by the sight of Earth at night, until her fellow astronaut (Goodwin) tells her, “Time to wrap it up. We’re going home.” Then we see her back on Earth and get a series of flashbacks—her husband and kids, the beginnings of her affair with Goodwin—interspersed with a voiceover counting down.
“I just feel a little off,” Lucy admits. “You go up there and see the whole universe, and everything here just seems so small.” Goodwin commiserates, noting that everything she saw in space “blew your mind, and now nothing else makes sense.” But hey, fleeting glimpse of a pistol aside, she’s probably fine. Right?
Lucy in the Sky hits theaters later this year.
Listing image by YouTube/Fox Searchlight Pictures