Timely for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing, Shelagh McLeod’s debut feature revolves around a lonely widower whose dreams about being an astronaut and space travel have never faded.
After staying with his daughter Molly (Krista Bridges) and her family for a while, 79 year-old Angus (Richard Dreyfuss) has finally moved to a retirement facility, aptly named Sundown Valley. He’s struggling financially because his late wife, who was suffering from dementia, was conned into buying a donkey sanctuary.
Hanging out with his grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence) who shares his passion for gazing into the cosmos Angus discovers that there’s a national TV lottery sponsored by Marcus (Colm Feore) a billionaire entrepreneur. (Think Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos) Open to those aged 18-65, the contest winner will cop a coveted seat on the Ventura, the first civilian shuttle into space.
After fudging his age and health status on the application, Angus is stunned when he’s named as a finalist contender. Joining others on the short-list for a site visit, irascible Angus voices concern about the structural integrity of the launch. As a retired civil engineer, he firmly believes that there’s a perhaps-fatal fault in the huge spacecraft’s proposed runway.
When Marcus refuses to postpone the Ventura’s proposed launch date, tenacious Angus goes public with his safety concerns, obviously risking his interstellar ‘trip of a lifetime.’
Although British TV actor-turned-writer/director Shelagh McLeod’s glib, cliché-filled script is far too thin on background/character development, Richard Deyfuss subtly enhances his underwritten role. And his Angus is eerily reminiscent of Roy Neary, the part he played in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977).
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Astronaut” is a sentimental-but-sluggish 6. If it’s not in a theater near you, it’s also available on VOD/Digital.