‘Interstellar’ Isn’t About Space; It’s About Home

How Christopher Nolan frames an intimate family drama in an epic sci-fi context.
Interstellar Jessica Chastain
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on November 18th, 2016

Christopher Nolan’s sweeping sci-fi epic Interstellar never really leaves Earth. Narratively it does, of course — it couldn’t call itself Interstellar if it didn’t, and in fact, besides leaving our planet, certain characters in the film actually leave our dimension. But thematically the film never leaves home because that’s where its heart is. That is the impetus for the whole mission of the narrative: to find a new home and save those left behind on the old one.

Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper isn’t convinced to leave the planet and everyone he holds dear for the sake of being a hero, making history, or charting uncharted cosmic territory. He doesn’t even do it to save mankind. Cooper embarks on this suicide mission to save his children. They are emblematic of mankind, certainly, but Interstellar, despite its epic scope, isn’t about mankind — not really. It’s not like other films that deal with a similar narrative by wallowing in our collective follies that have led to the necessity of a new home planet, or basking in the vengeance nature finally wreaks upon us. It’s instead about a man and his love for his family, it is about the humanity that Cooper represents, not all people as one, but one person being himself. Interstellar travel is just the metaphor Nolan uses to frame his themes.

In the latest video essay from Jack’s Movie Reviews, entitled “Interstellar & Humanity,” the above ideas are presented and expanded upon by adding points about fate, free will, determination, the push and pull of family ties, and Nolan’s ultimate objective for his film. Jack selected three pivotal scenes to illustrate his analysis, and it should be noted they all take place before Cooper vacates Mother Earth: the discovery of the downed drone, the parent-teacher conference, and the New York Yankees baseball game. These scenes have been chosen not only for what they say about the world of Interstellar ‐- only a hair’s breadth removed from our own in the most plausible ways ‐- but also for what they can teach us about humanity (both the condition of being human and the biological designation), its weaknesses, its resolve, and its basic unit of being: the family.

I’ve seen and read a lot of things about Interstellar, but nothing quite made me see, or rather feel the movie like this has. Take the ten minutes required to sink your mind into this and I guarantee, like me, the next step you take will be to queue up Interstellar so you can watch it again with new eyes. And that, in my estimation, is how you know a video succeeds.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist