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Lessons on regret and redemption from George Clooneyâs The Midnight Sky
‘You don't relish the idea that the story becomes more relevant in the middle of a pandemic... But those themes, we will always write. We're always seeking a way to communicate, and be home and be near the people we love. And we're always questioning our actions, whether or not we're doing enough.’
Netflix

Lessons on regret and redemption from George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - January 27, 2021 - 12:00am

One of the highlights that fittingly ended a year of Zoom press junkets was The STAR’s interview with Hollywood star George Clooney. It was for The Midnight Sky, the film adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s acclaimed novel Good Morning, Midnight, that started streaming last December on Netflix and where he’s not only lead actor but also its director and co-producer.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the film is a post-apocalyptic tale that follows an Arctic-stationed scientist Augustine (Clooney) who races against time to warn a deep-space astronaut (Felicity Jones) and her crew from coming home due to a mysterious global catastrophe.

Describing The Midnight Sky as a “meditation film on life” and not an action film despite its hardcore “man versus nature” scenes shot in Iceland, Clooney hoped audiences would find the film as a warning shot. “It should be a warning shot about what we’re capable of doing to one another if we don’t pay attention. It should be a warning shot about denying science, or creating divisiveness and hatred and being unkind to one another.

“But it should also be hopeful with the idea of saying that, you know, this whole experiment of mankind or humankind, I guess you’d say now, is worth it, it’s worth the effort. And, I think, that’s what we tried to say in the film, which is, it’s worth fighting as hard as they fight to get to live.

“We’re looking at a pandemic right now. And it’s causing a lot of panic, a lot of heartbreak and a lot of angst. And it’s scaring people. I think we have to remember that everything that we’re facing right now is man-made and that if man made it, then man can unmake it. That’s hopeful to me.”

The Midnight Sky is an ‘end-of-theworld’ tale about a lonely scientist (George Clooney) in the Arctic who races to stop a group of astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe. Clooney directs and co-stars with Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Tiffany Boone and newcomer Caoilinn Springall.

Nevertheless, according to Clooney, it’s unfortunate that his film has become even more relevant nowadays than he had probably intended it to be. “You don’t relish the idea that the story becomes more relevant in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that it’s timely. It shouldn’t be. And with any luck, in a few months, we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with what looks like, for now, vaccine possibilities. And I’m very hopeful that certainly by late spring or something, we might all be able to do this in a room together and not have to do it (like this) because I’d like to never hear the word Zoom.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix

Meanwhile, it was jarring to see him in a role that’s a departure from the suave and dashing Clooney that we’re used to, but he enjoyed playing this graying astronomer and loner with a front-row seat to civilization’s collapse.

“I loved the part,” Clooney said of his latest role, “I’m looking on 59 years now, so the romantic-comedy version of me would be like an episode of The Golden Girls. So the roles you’re looking for are more substantial and different in a way.

“‘Grumpy old man’ is a fun place to be, in my life. You know, I was actually on the young side compared to the book — the guy is 70 in the book. The unfortunate thing is I don’t really look that far from 70. I’d like to say we did a lot of aging makeup. But just working in Iceland and directing made me look like that.”

Though The Midnight Sky is not the most comfortable watch because of the times we’re in, it’s also a must-see because of its message about regret and redemption that’s applicable to our personal lives. Here’s a cautionary tale about how a life filled with what-ifs is like, at the same time, it tells you that as long as you’re alive, there’s still hope to make up for lost time, lost opportunities, lost connections and so on.

Netflix

For Clooney, not having that “unfinished business” that his character had to deal with made his portrayal easier. He didn’t have to look far for some real-life inspiration though as he knew some people close to him and older than him who have been living with regret.

“And regret is a cancer. Regret is a terrible, terrible thing! And it really eats you alive. And as you get older, it really cripples you,” he said.

Good thing, he said, his character managed to get the redemption he was seeking to compensate for his regret. “I don’t have that journey. I have plenty of things I wished I didn’t do or say over time, but you know, none of the major things that you regret. It’s about family, it’s about career, it’s about the people that you love and the people you take care of, and all of those things. I feel fairly comfortable here. So, I don’t have to deal with the same kinds of issues that Augustine does, which made it easier for me to play.”

Interestingly, during our roundtable interview with him last month, Clooney once dubbed (for the longest time) as Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor admitted that he could have had experienced his character’s life of regret had he not met his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and built a family with her. They are now parents to three-year-old twins.

“You never know. (I’d be) probably living with regret that I didn’t even know I was going to have. If I met her and she was married to someone else, I would have had a lot of regret. Yeah, maybe. You know, I feel that we met at the exact right time for both of us. And luckily enough in time to be able to have these two knuckleheads that are running around. Though they may run in here, you never know that. It’s their bedtime, so they can come in. They make some loud noises. So, you’ll know if they do.”

“So, maybe you are probably right. I probably could have ended up with all that regret and all of that anger and bitterness — that sort of harboring,” Clooney added.

In the film, Augustine would find himself becoming an accidental guardian to a little girl of a few words (played by Irish newcomer Caoilinn Springall) who was left behind as fellow scientists and their families fled the research station. Somehow, they were able to build an unlikely father-daughter relationship even as Augustine considered his mini-company an “unwelcome” disruption to his loner and socially-isolated life.

In real life, Clooney has embraced fatherhood and all. He said his kids have taken over his life, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Look, it’s been great, because we get to spend time together. I get to wake them up in the morning, put them in bed at night, and for me, I’m very lucky in that sense. I’m not in a position that many people in the world are and for that part, I feel very lucky.

“Now, do I like to get out of the house every once in a while? Yeah! You know, they turned my office into a nursery. And so I have to hide like a bottle of tequila in a stuffed bear somewhere so that I can get through it (laughs).

“You know, Augustine doesn’t want this kind of interruption, and this is just a disaster for him. But I welcome the interruption. It’s fun when the kids would come in and interrupt a Zoom, like they’ve done many times while I’m here. I’m in the theater now where I edit because this is all I have left. They’ve taken over and taken over my life. So it’s fun!”

One thing Clooney discovered about himself in the last months is that fatherhood is a continuous learning experience.

“I always thought that I’d be overwhelmed by certain things like if a kid falls down. You know, all of my pretending to be a pediatrician on ER is very helpful as I pretend to be a doctor when my kid splits his lip when he falls down, things like that. But you don’t know, you’re kind of learning stuff as you go. No matter what I hope in life, I’m learning stuff as I go. And the lockdown? The only thing that it does is it just puts it all on steroids, you know.”

GEORGE CLOONEY
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