The award-winning sci-fi romantic drama Orbiter 9 is currently showing on Netflix. Below is our review of the film.
Orbiter 9 Movie Review
Orbiter 9 (Orbita 9) starts off as any standard sci-fi drama would: quiet, unassuming and full of technical stuff. Here we learn about Helena (Clara Lago), a 19-year-old space colonist. She lives in a Rebecca space unit 9 bound for the planet they call Celeste. Helena lives alone, often working out and reminiscing about her parents. She grew up with her parents, but they left the unit so that she can use the limited oxygen supply provided by the authorities. Today, she is welcoming her first adult human guest, a spacecraft engineer named Alex (Alex Gonzalez).
What happens next is a series of revelations that alter Helena and Alex’s life. Helena develops feelings for Alex, who likewise falls in love with Helena’s beauty and innocence. His feelings drive him to explore beyond his responsibilities in the Orbiter project. As a consequence, Helena makes discoveries about her and the world she lives in. Some of these discoveries are beautiful, but most of them are jarring. Alex and Helena’s feelings and actions cause the project to unravel. This angers Hugo (Andres Parra), one of the project’s founders and leads him to take drastic action. The pair puts their lives at risk, as well as the lives of the people around them.
The consequence of space colonization
Orbiter 9 explores the idea of space colonization and its actual consequences on humans. It does not caution us of our ways. It just tells us that the Earth is uninhabitable and that we have no choice but to escape. Getting out won’t be easy, and that it will involve a lot of uncomfortable changes. These changes adjustments might alienate us from the things we normally do. Worse, it might alienate us from people we’ve grown up with. As much as the idea of space colonization is progressive, it is also dangerous. And lonely.
The film lays these changes and consequences down quietly during its first half. There are no horrifyingly dramatic scenes with dying crowds. There are no large-scale effects either, but there are a handful of action scenes. Yet, the film maintains its focus on how Helena and Alex’s varied perceptions of life reflect the consequences of progress. By showing these moments, director Hatem Kraiche makes us realize the depth and tenderness of humanity and this world.
The film gives importance to mundane events like changing clothes, basking in the sun, and playing in the rain. Even token romantic scenes seem more meaningful in the film. All throughout the first half, the film maintains the fragility of Alex and Helena’s position. The tension isn’t palpable, but enough to keep you watching intently and ask how much change is worth. The charm and drama of love do not void the movie of suspense.
The second half of the film breaks the beauty and silence of the first. The film naturally escalates from romantic drama to action without any hint of contrivance. That’s largely because the first part was able to sustain enough suspense.
Autocracy over our bodies in space
Alex and Helena face the consequences of their actions, but not without putting up a fight. There’s a lot of power play involved here, especially between Alex and Hugo. At this point, the film highlights the second consequence of space colonization, which is politicization. Space was once full of politics, with US and Russia battling it out in the Space Race of the 1970s. Since then, space travel has been more democratic. The film cautions us that space colonization might be a dangerous political project that gives authorities power over our bodies.
The film does not entirely demonize space colonization, progress or science altogether. While it portrays the consequences of progress, it also celebrates the discoveries that make science wondrous. Towards the end of the movie, Alex, and Hugo comes to an agreement. The film ends by circling back to the tenderness of humanity in the first part of the film while infusing hope in the ideas of space and progress.
Clara Lago and Alex Gonzalez gave good performances as Helena and Alex, less during the first part, and more as the film reached its climax. The supporting cast was also commendable. The main honor, we think, should be given to Kraiche and his technical direction team, which made the experience of watching the film wholly enjoyable.
(Cover photo courtesy of IMDb)