Four English astronomers hit the road to celebrate fifty years of their time with each other and in their field of work. They stop at telescopes they have histories with and reflect on the past. It’s a reunion that could’ve been more special and intimate if filmmaker Alison Rose wasn’t trying to retrofit these men and their stories into a boring documentary.
Star Men is a small film that I wished was smaller. This isn’t the fault of the noble subjects of Rose’s film (who, I’m sure, benefited from this reunion), but of the filmmaker’s inability to build anything with the given material.
A documentary like Star Men doesn’t take a lot of skill to make. Rose flips on a camera while on the road trip, provides uninspired narration, and interviews the astronomers against blank backdrops using basic lighting with the occasional reference point (a photo usually) robotically appearing and then disappearing. It’s quite literally the bare minimum of what a documentarian is supposed to provide.
I don’t want to compare Star Men to other, much better documentaries, but it’s hard not to when I’ve seen filmmakers do so much more with the medium. If Rose arranged this trip, then I appreciate that – it’s a thoughtful journey these friends travel on. However, there’s no excuse for how little the film does visually or through its storytelling. Star Men flows on a monotone, depending on attractive wide shots of people in deep thought to keep the film afloat with purpose.
On an educational level, audiences are lightyears away from work like Particle Fever, and as far as sociable docs that deal with age and tradition are concerned, we’re distant from Young @ Heart. There I go again! Thinking about every film other than this one.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie