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To begin this review, I guess I should be upfront and admit that I almost didn’t watch this.
I’m really trying to get away from my habit of saying that I didn’t watch a film because it’s been sitting on my Netflix list for ages. I feel like I say that for almost everything, but it’s also completely true in that’s literally what I do.
To cut back on a serious backlog of shows, I considered triaging this movie just to make things more manageable. However, I finally got around to it and I’m so glad that I did.
A sci-fi romance directed by Hatem Khraiche, Orbiter 9 starts off with a young woman named Helena. She’s a colonist trying to reach the planet Celeste in the Alpha Centauri system.
Helena has spent her entire life on this spaceship, and almost her entire life alone. Although she originally began the trip with her parents, an error in the ship’s life support system forced them to make a heartbreaking choice. Either they all died together, or Helena’s parents sacrificed themselves so their daughter could live longer. Her parents chose the latter.
For the past fifteen years, Helena has been floating aimlessly, all alone and waiting for a repair ship to cross her path. When it finally arrives, she meets the engineer, Alex. He’s the first person she’s seen in years and Helena is fascinated by him. She’s also deeply lonely and quickly falls in love.
At its heart, this is what Orbiter 9 is about: a love story. But oh man, the twist. The twist! I didn’t see it coming and my jaw was on the floor.
The twist to this movie makes it very difficult to talk about the film without giving the entire thing away. I will say that I thought the film was going to be a straightforward romance, and I had no idea the plot twist was coming. When it did arrive I was completely blown away.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the engineer fell in love with Helena first. In the trailer and in the write-ups that I could find, it seemed like she was going to be the one pursuing him, but it’s actually the other way around.
Helena has a good reason to be clingy—she’s been trapped on a spaceship her entire life and she just wants a bit of human touch. In contrast, Alex reads too deeply into their dynamic. By the end of the film it’s clear he’ll do anything for Helena. He does do everything for her, including breaking the law and sinking his career, and their devotion was shockingly mutual.
As an aside: I really loved how this film took its time with the characters and explored their emotional reactions to current events. It was definitely focused on smaller-scale stuff rather than the bigger picture of space travel.
Unfortunately—because this film came out swinging with such a stellar beginning—everything afterwards sort of flat-lined. I mean, how could it not, when the twist was that good.
Orbiter 9 wasn’t a bad story per se, but it’s extremely difficult to keep up that sort of momentum after pulling a stunt like that in the first twenty minutes of the film. I found myself wanting way more, both emotionally and from the narrative, and I didn’t get it.
I can’t talk much more about this movie without giving the entire plot away, so I’ll end off the review by whole-heartedly endorsing the film and urging everyone else to watch it. If you love space dramas, sci-fi love stories, and movies where the relationship is at the heart of the plot, you’ll love this.