Synopsis: "First Man" is a biopic drama, based on the real-life story of NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. The death of his young daughter who had died of brain cancer was very difficult for him to cope with. The weight of his grief was too much, affecting his marriage and performance at work. As more tragedies occurred from the deaths of fellow astronauts, Neil retreated even more in an unhealthy, emotional way.
Warning: Spoilers within the Presentation
Welcome to "Conscious Movie Reviews." I'm your host Joy Davis and here to review "First Man," a biopic drama.
While test flying the X-15 rocket for NASA, Neil Armstrong had bounced it off the atmosphere, then dropped in altitude fast to hit the desert floor hard. This was the most recent mishap of several already that could ground him. Neil's focus was off because Karen, his young daughter, was suffering from brain cancer.
On the day of Karen's funeral, Neil grieved privately, saying little about the tragedy to his family and friends. He cried uncontrollably at his desk and kept the baby's jewelry for safekeeping.
Neil's worry about being grounded at work can relate to the gravity of his sorrow. He struggled with the weight of profound grief. And by suppressing it, he presented a "cool" front.
For Neil, his major life lesson was being honest. He wore a social "mask" to hide the anguish that's deceitful. If he were to release any fear of criticism during emotional confrontations, he'd be free to authentically express his true feelings and needs.
When Neil was selected to command NASA's Gemini Project, his wife Janet called it a fresh start, an adventure. They settled in Houston with other astronaut families for the mission.
Tragedy struck in 1966 when Gemini astronauts Elliott See and Charles Bassett crashed a supersonic trainer jet on approach, due to fog. A year later, the crew of Apollo 1 had died in a fiery explosion during a launch rehearsal test.
The string of deaths only added to the weight of Neil's grief. By continuing to say little about it to his wife, the tensions grew between them.
Instead of suffering in silence and isolating, Neil can choose stoicism that's a healthier way to cope. They may look outwardly similar, but being stoic is about understanding the beliefs that underlie any hard feelings and not seeking the approval of others.
As a couple Neil and Janet are total opposites in how they communicate. She is feeling-oriented in a sensitive way and he's a visual problem solver that just wants to get to the bottom line. So when Janet's being needy in wanting her husband to emote, Neil shuts down and disappears from feeling criticized with every confrontation.
Their relationship can move forward if Janet would give herself the approval and security she outwardly craves while Neil can be receptive about how emotions must flow freely at his feelings center, then outwardly in an intimate way with others. By having healthy boundaries in place, they can both feel safe to make these changes.
In 1968, NASA chose Neil as the commander of Apollo 11, a spaceflight to land on the moon with Buzz Aldrin piloting.
Traveling to the moon was symbolically important for several reasons. It was, for one, a means to gain levity from the weight of his dark emotions, like a rocket lifting off the ground.
Second, the shape and cycles of the moon can represent Neil's path toward wholeness - letting go of his attachment to the past and be fully in the present so that life can go on after death for a new beginning.
And last, Neil was drawn to the moon's feminine mystique that influences the ebb and flow of emotions to balance out his highly masculine side that was too logical in a rigid way.
When the Lunar Module landed successfully, Neil made the historic, first walk on the surface of the moon. Millions at home tuned in to witness the moment when he said, "One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind."
He headed for Tranquility Base, also known as the Little West Crater, to throw his daughter's bracelet into it.
A crater is associated with an old hurt on a subconscious level. The circular shape of the jewelry confirmed Neil's need for wholeness to feel well within himself. By leaving the bracelet behind, he closed the circle for emotional completion. And every time he looks up from Earth to see the moon, it served as a loving reminder of his daughter.