Gagarin: To Infinity and Beyond

Life in the suburbs… God knows that the cinema has recounted it, stigmatizing its alienating potential on the American side, detailing its violence and its impossibilities for the future on the French side. But no one had yet observed it as the place of the dream. Yet this is what Gagarin, the first production by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh (from their eponymous short film), succeeds in doing.

Gagarin is the name of this red brick city located in the Paris suburbs, built in the 1960s and inaugurated by the famous astronaut Yuri Gagarin. In 2014, however, the authorities took the decision to demolish it.

And it is there, in this very real event, that the story of this astonishing film begins, filmed even as the workers arrive to begin the demolition process. Because Youri, a somewhat clumsy, dreamy and endearing teenager, cannot bring himself to see his place of life destroyed. He then decides that he will not leave this place which has become… his spaceship.

Gagarin, by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh Photo: Metropolis Films

A look full of empathy and imagination on adolescent idealism, Gagarin is a wonderfully touching film.

Of course, the specter of this destruction to come weighs, but it is above all the observation of the small gestures of solidarity, mutual aid, sharing between its inhabitants that mark. And for the first time, or almost, in a film, the suburbs are no longer the place you want to leave at all costs, which confines and dehumanizes, but on the contrary, a loved and inspiring place to live.

And the one leading this unusual odyssey is Youri, a candid character, nourished by hope and kindness, interpreted by the newcomer Alséni Bathily, as convincing as he is endearing.

He is the driving force behind this film with its heady staging and rare charm, capable of illustrating the most ethereal as well as the most down to earth. Because loneliness, anguish, violence are not evacuated, but treated with a particularly successful poetry from elsewhere. Finally a victory of the imagination over destruction?

The trailer (source: YouTube)

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