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“Spaceman” Hits Home

Written by: Matt Patti | February 29th, 2024

Spaceman (Johan Renck, 2024) 4 out of 5 stars

Director Johan Renck’s Spaceman had a limited theatrical run for a week before its release on Netflix. The novel that inspired the film, entitled Spaceman of Bohemia (by Jaroslav Kalfar), centers around a Czech astronaut’s ambition and self-discovery while in solitude among the stars. Now, seven years after the book’s release, Renck (Downloading Nancy) brings the story to the big screen with the help of Kalfar who contributes in an executive producer role.

In the film, Czech astronaut Jakub Prochazka (Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems) is on a mission to investigate a strange, colorful substance that has appeared in the sky over Earth. He is the very first astronaut from the Czech Republic, and is in a race against the South Koreans to reach the mystifying substance. Extremely dedicated to his task, Jakub hopes to gather samples of the substance and return to Earth on his spaceship.

Adam Sandler in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

Exciting as the idea of this discovery may be, it is a large undertaking. Jakub has been in outer space for six months, and is only reaching the halfway point of his journey. Many call Jakub the “loneliest man” in existence, both in terms of his mental state as well as physical, as he is the furthest person from other humans, geographically.

Though he can communicate via special technology with a select few people back home, he begins to worry when his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan, She Said), stops answering his calls. At the depths of his despair and overcome with the reality of isolation, Jakub discovers he is not alone on his vessel. Soon, he finds an unlikely companion that will challenge Jakub’s perception of humanity and life itself.

Hanus (voice by Paul Dano) in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

Having never read Kalfar’s novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Spaceman. The premise is a compelling one: an isolated astronaut on a solo mission to explore a mysterious phenomenon. However, I had some doubts as often films involving primarily a singular character can grow tiresome if the audience does not connect to said central character.

Thankfully, Sandler’s Jakub is a layered and intriguing-enough character for the viewer to identify with. I always enjoy seeing Sandler perform in a more serious role and step outside his comfort zone, and I think he does a great job here. He manages to deliver a very grounded performance as he floats through the solar system, portraying a man who has given up everything but is beginning to question that decision.

Carey Mulligan in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

Still, I’m unsure if Sandler alone could maintain viewer engagement throughout the entire runtime. Thankfully, though, he doesn’t have to. The perfect companion to Sandler’s overly ambitious but guilt-ridden Jakub is the wise, peaceful being he encounters on his ship.

At first startled by this large creature, Jakub slowly warms up to the extraterrestrial enough to give him the name of an inventor that he looked up to as a child: Hanus. The two begin to develop a mutual bond as Hanus questions why Jakub does certain things and why he feels certain ways. Reluctant to share in the beginning, Jakub eventually opens up to Hanus about his worries.

l-r: Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

The interactions between Jakub and Hanus make up the heart of the film. The dynamic between the two is excellent, but it’s the questions that Hanus poses about humans that really resonate. The film offers quality commentary on ambition, the value of relationships, and the price we pay for achievement, among other thought-provoking topics.

The third act of Spaceman is both delightful and frightening, but in an awe-inspiring way. Jakub’s character development hits a peak as he shows us how far he has come. With so many films that falter in their conclusion, it is quite inspiring to see a film stick the landing and then some. Spaceman does just that.

l-r: Hanus (voice by Paul Dano) and Adam Sandler in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

I don’t have many negatives to address when it comes to Spaceman, a rarity for me. I will say, however, that there are a few things that could be better. For example, Hanus is not very original or unique in both physical design or character attributes, as the creature takes on the role of your typical mystical, wise entity that tries to help a human. Also, the film does contain just a bit too many flashbacks, though some are of great quality and progress the plot.

Overall, Spaceman impresses far more than one might imagine. A quick read of the synopsis have us formulate a very different idea than the finished product, as there is so much more to Spaceman than meets the eye. The movie really hits home for me personally with its messaging, commentary, and presentation.

l-r: Carey Mulligan and Adam Sandler in SPACEMAN ©2023 Netflix

I’m unsure if this will be the case for others, but Spaceman left me wanting more. I believe there’s even more that could be explored and more story to tell. I almost wish this would have been released as a series on Netflix rather than a movie so that I could spend more time getting to know Jakub’s inner thoughts and Hanus’ thoughts on those thoughts. When a film leaves you wanting more, more often than not that is a criticism. For me, however, I want more in the most positive way there is.


Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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