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{Fantastic Fest 2022} The Antares Paradox Review- Emotional Sci-Fi Messaging

The Antares Paradox premiering at Fantastic Fest 2022, is the best science fiction movie to come out of the festival and one of the most universal stories of any time.

The Antares Paradox
Courtesy of Onirikal Studios

One-room stories can feel expansive and important, as if the implications of what is happening in the tiny space go far beyond those four walls. On the other hand, they can also feel small and claustrophobic. These films never seem to go anywhere, and beyond the characters on the screen, there are no more significant consequences. 2036 Original Unknown, an underseen sci-fi thriller starring Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackhoff, would be one of those big-picture stories. Another would be Hitchock’s Rope or Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, which, although they are each single-location stories about a closed set of people, they feel like they are about society as a whole. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a huge story set inside one tiny bunker. The Antares Paradox is a vast implication film that tells a broad story from a personal perspective.

Adrea Trapat’s Alexandra is a scientist who works for a small S.E.T.I. group in Spain. She has devoted her entire adult life and parts of her childhood to her search for life somewhere in space. Smartly placed interview excerpts that bookend the film reveal Alex’s innermost thoughts and biggest conflicts. She has been lonely since she was a child without knowing it. This becomes apparent from almost every conversation she has from her isolated station. Her singular focus has been to find a signal proving life exists elsewhere. She believes this work is so important because it defines what humanity is and could be. Ironically this search for that thing that could bring us all together is the thing that tears her from her own family and friends.

On one of the worst nights of her life, she gets the signal she has been waiting her entire professional life for. As her father lies dying in the hospital, a storm rages outside. Making matters worse, she is operating with out-of-date or broken equipment, and her only colleague is quitting for a higher-paying job. With limited time before she loses control of the satellite, a devastated sister, and a decimated program, things look bleak. She may have to sacrifice everything she holds dear to prove her discovery.

The Antares Project may be about the search for life outside of our planet, but like others movies of its kind, it’s really about what life means. What matters? Is it connections with loved ones? Commitments to family or work? Do our ends justify our means when something as world-changing as extraterrestrial life is on the table? Should that be more important than terrestrial concerns like disease and hunger? Trepat is fantastic at conveying that contradiction between thinking what you are doing is essential and defending your choices even when they hurt yourself and others. She feels intense guilt but, more than that, frustration that no one seems to understand her choices.

Like 2036 Origin Unknown, all of Alex’s interactions are done via video chat and phone calls. That distance means we stay with Alex the entire time. Her anxiety is ours. She is under tremendous strain as one thing after another goes wrong. It helps that the film unfolds as the clock ticks down. She is running out of time, and we feel the pressure. It’s a beautifully made film about what makes us human; the good, bad, and ugly. More closely aligned with Contact or Arrival, the signal is merely a catalyst to examine life truths.

Alex’s sister Ana is one of the sole relationships outside of work, and it is strained. The sisters are believable. Ana(Aleida Torrent) and Alex are united by blood, but the relationship feels tired. They have a lived-in quality that reads true when they argue, laugh, and get exasperated with one another. There is history between the two that unfolds in shared memories that speak volumes about how each was raised and the resentments left behind by childhood. Ana was the doting daughter expected to step up but wasn’t encouraged intellectually, while Alex was forgiven for callous and even selfish behavior because she was the “smart one.” Parental decisions shape who they are as adults.

As the pressures of family life bear down, wind tears across her station and time slips away, Alex holds firm to her scientific faith. She feels a profound responsibility to something she has never seen over the family that she can hold and love. But unfortunately, in her quest for universal truth, she lost her ability to look inward. As badly as she wants to know that we aren’t alone, she has forgotten that some of those answers are right in front of her. It’s a terrible irony that swells to a crescendo in the film’s final moments.

The ending will frustrate some. For those looking for more definitive answers or a more hopeful resolution, you won’t find it in The Antares Paradox. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beautifully made movie. Writer and director Luis Tinoco continually comes up with interesting ways to shoot Alex’s haunted face. The electronic beeps, blinks, and hums from the equipment light the otherwise dull space, and a well-placed musical tract apply the sentimental screws when necessary.

Sometimes the most essential message is the one right in front of you. The quiet, mundane message you have heard all your life can be looked past when tilting at windmills. The Antares Paradox captures the emotional wreckage wrought from a life forgotten. It is timely, universal, and intimate at the same time. Life is fleeting. Hug your family and catch a movie. Find all our Fantastic Fest coverage here.