A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the book-based film The Midnight Sky has a generally melancholy tone and deals with the destruction of earth and humanity as well as the deaths of individual characters. Director George Clooney's starring role is a scientist who sacrificed family for career and is now dying alone on the surface of the earth. Before he journeys out on a danger-filled trek, his days revolve around checking for other signs of life, eating microwaved meals, giving himself blood transfusions, popping pills, drinking heavily, vomiting, and sleeping. When he does detect signs of life -- in the form of five astronauts on a spaceship returning to earth -- we turn to their also generally gloomy stories. Each astronaut is grappling with homesickness or uncertainty about the future, and three risk their lives on a spacewalk. The bloody scene on their return could be too intense for young viewers, as could a couple of the encounters on Clooney's journey. All of the characters display courage. Language includes "bulls--t," "piss," "damn," and "bitch."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Augustine (George Clooney) is a dying scientist who opts to remain alone at an Arctic Circle observatory when an incident leaves earth uninhabitable and humans must flee below ground. It's the year 2049. Augustine discovers a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) hiding in the observatory with him. Together, they set out across the inhospitable and dangerous terrain to reach a satellite to try to communicate with a spaceship returning to earth. Augustine wants to warn the crew that they cannot return to earth and should instead turn around. The ship is returning from a planet known as K-23, which they have discovered, thanks to original research by Augustine, can sustain human life. The future of humanity could be up to the members of the crew, which includes couple Sully (Felicity Jones) and Adewole (Davi Oyelowo), as well as the young Maya (Tiffany Boone) and the more veteran Sanchez (Demian Bichir) and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler).
Is it any good?
The Midnight Sky is a film that tries to be epic but doesn't quite spend enough time with any of its characters to generate sufficient emotion. The two parallel storylines do have some interest. In one, a dying, grey-bearded Clooney evokes a combination of human frailty and save-the-species determination. His weary face and physical motions reflect the potential futility of the near-impossible journey he's set out on. It's unusual to see the leading man look so infirm, and this alone creates some intrigue to keep the otherwise slow opening scenes of Clooney shuffling around alone at an Arctic Circle observatory interesting. Ethan Peck also looks and sounds a lot like Clooney as the younger Augustine.
In the parallel story, a group of astronauts steer their spaceship through unchartered space regions to get back to earth. We're meant to connect with each member of the crew through their relationships with each other and their individualized holograms of family life back home. But it's not quite enough to generate the emotion desired when the crew members suffer accidents or put themselves in harm's way. What films like this do have (and is likely better enjoyed on a big screen) is the creative and often quite beautiful invention of other worlds, or our own world made other. The Midnight Sky has one other major facet to it, which is a prominent musical score by Alexandre Desplat that goes way beyond indicating moods and aims to inspire emotion all on its own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what might have happened on earth to cause the destruction seen in The Midnight Sky. What clues does the film give us?
How and why do you think Iris appears to Augustine as a child?
George Clooney stars in the film and also directed it. Do you know of other films directed by their stars, and what do you think are the pros and cons of an actor functioning also as director of a movie?
What did this film have in common with other apocalypse films? How about other space films you've seen?
How did the characters demonstrate courage?
- On DVD or streaming: December 23, 2020
- Cast: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
- Director: George Clooney
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: STEM, Book Characters, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Courage
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some bloody images and brief strong language
- Last updated: December 24, 2020
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