In Review

Film review: Apollo 10½ A Space Age Childhood

A dreamy memoir of a space-mad 1960s childhood

Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped animation, set in 1969, is a low-key but “evocative” story of childhood loosely inspired by the writer-director’s own, said John Nugent in Empire. It is narrated by Jack Black as the adult version of protagonist Stanley (Milo Coy), a dreamer who lives in the suburbs of Houston, and whose father is employed in an admin job at Nasa. Like everyone else, Stanley is obsessed with the forthcoming Apollo 11 Moon mission, but in his account of that year, there was another, secret Moon landing days before it, a test run for which Nasa agents recruited him as the astronaut. The reason: they’d “built the lunar module a little too small”, meaning that only a child could fit inside it. The rotoscope technique involves tracing over live-action film footage, and results in a “strange, hyperreal aesthetic” which is well suited to this film’s blending of reality and fantasy. 

With “shrewd storytelling judgement”, Linklater makes Stanley’s “lucid dream” only a small part of what is otherwise an “overwhelmingly real”, but more or less plotless, account of a 1960s childhood, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. His memories of the era are “curated with passionate connoisseurship” – “the ice-cream flavours, the TV shows, the drive-in movies, the schoolyard games, the parents, the eccentric grandparents, the theme park rides, the neighbours, the prank phone calls”. 

Linklater has made some “dire” films since Boyhood, his 2014 “masterpiece”, said Kevin Maher in The Times, but Apollo 10½ is a triumphant return to form. Rich with observational detail and saturated in “loving” references to the music, movies and television of the period, “it feels as significant an American memoir as Little House on the Prairie”. 

Recommended

A weekend in Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne Bridge and the River Tyne in Newcastle
The big trip

A weekend in Newcastle upon Tyne

Properties of the week: dreamy Italian homes for under €1m
Six gorgeous homes
The wish list

Properties of the week: dreamy Italian homes for under €1m

Nato’s renaissance: how the world’s most powerful military alliance has taken centre stage
Long table of men at Nato summit
In Depth

Nato’s renaissance: how the world’s most powerful military alliance has taken centre stage

Curtailing abortion rights: will Republicans rue their victory?
Students protest anti-abortion measures
Talking point

Curtailing abortion rights: will Republicans rue their victory?

Popular articles

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

Inside Adelaide Cottage: the guesthouse tipped to be Prince William and Kate’s new home
William and Kate
In Depth

Inside Adelaide Cottage: the guesthouse tipped to be Prince William and Kate’s new home

Caroline Watt: where is Rebekah Vardy’s missing agent?
Rebekah Vardy arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice
Profile

Caroline Watt: where is Rebekah Vardy’s missing agent?

The Week Footer Banner