First Man – Review
by Cat Edwards
With the success of La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s latest film was backed by certain expectations, which he carries with him and improves upon. First Man feels like old cinema, with nostalgia filling every frame, yet the director’s ability to modernise these classic film tropes ever so slightly effortlessly updates the film and demonstrates his excellence in filmmaking.
First Man details the lives of Neil Armstrong and his wife Janet in the run up to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon that made Armstrong a part of global history. This illustrious tale runs alongside a tale of grief, as Armstrong and his wife recover from the death of their daughter and the ongoing effects of traumatic loss; an inevitable part of exploratory travel.
The casting of Gosling and Foy in their respective roles is an excellent choice for the film. Gosling’s Armstrong is a stoic character who contrasts well with Foy’s character and the emotional depth she brings to the film. Their interactions are gripping and the narratives of historical gravity and domestic life are able to coexist harmoniously, with both elements being equally engaging to watch. Neither narrative feels more important than the other and this highlights Chazelle’s ability to bring weight to a tale that could easily be considered mundane in the shadow of space travel.
Chazelle worked with Justin Hurwitz (whom he previously collaborated with on La La Land) for the sound and it is one of the most impressive aspects of the film. The music adds to the classic story telling of the film and is used cleverly at moments throughout the film to provide punctures of emotional impact, moving it in a way that adds texture and depth to the on-screen action.
Damien Chazelle is a story teller. His films have a structure in which an audience finds themselves immersed in a way reminiscent of fairytales and classic cinema. Chazelle’s ability to engross the audience in a tale of human connection and emotion is immense and First Man is Chazelle at his story telling best.