Gagarine manages to combine the style of a fantasy film within a narrative focused on social realism. The feature debut for filmmakers Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh is full of style, though the screenplay feels somewhat underdeveloped. The result is something of a calling card for the filmmakers, who will hopefully be given a better script to work with next time.
The film follows 16-year-old Yuri (Alséni Bathily), a teen with dreams of being an astronaut despite living in a low-income housing project on the outskirts of Paris. In a parallel between the narrative and reality, the film was shot at Cité Gagarine, an actual housing project in Ivry-sur-Seine. The building was used for filming right before it was actually demolished, an event that hangs over the story in Gagarine. Yuri spends much of his time attempting to save the building from being condemned by the city, taking it upon himself to do the necessary repairs, to no avail.
Although the entire building is evacuated, Yuri stays because his mother is preoccupied with a new relationship and gives him few options. Left alone in the building, Yuri transforms his apartment and those around him into a mock spaceship of sorts. This project attracts the attention of a local girl named Diana (Lyna Khoudri), who starts a sweet romance with the teen. While this romance is at the center of the story, it remains underdeveloped like many of the relationships in the film’s story.
While the script desperately needs further development of the relationships, there is loads of style in the direction. The simplistic story leaves plenty of room for creative camera work and a enchanting score to take over for the storytelling. This isn’t quite enough to make a Gagarine a great film, but it does make it a movie worth watching.
Unfortunately, the Blu-ray comes without any special features. While the stylistic film is enhanced by the high-definition presentation, a featurette or a commentary track would have been nice as well.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Special Features: 0/10