Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh’s lovely, moving feature debut sets its scene in Cité Gagarine – a vast red brick housing project on the outskirts of Paris – concocting a fantastical fiction around its real-life demolition in August 2019.
Isolated, inventive 16 year old Yuri (an astonishing performance from Alseni Bathily) has lived there all his life. He dreams of becoming an astronaut, inspired by his namesake and the Gagarine’s too, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, seen in ’60s archive footage opening the complex in a more optimistic age. But now the Gagarine is in disrepair and when plans to demolish it are leaked, Yuri joins with friends Diana (Lyna Khoudri) and Houssam (Jamil McCraven) in an attempt to save it – in a stunning, magical turn, transforming the estate into his very own ‘starship’.
Wildly imaginative, Gagarine explores themes of isolation and community, using the physical authenticity of its setting to ground its starry-eyed metaphysics so that they seem almost plausible too. Exploring how we communicate with buildings, how they entwine with our memories, imaginations and selves, and how we cope with the effects of forces outside our control, it’s a tender study of stratospheric aspirations thriving against the odds.