Planetarium is a film that leaves the audience doing a lot of guessing. Two American sisters, Laura and Kate Barlow (Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp), are working as mediums in Paris and are employed by André (Emmanuel Salinger), a film producer who is completely taken by the idea of spirits and the supernatural. The opening presents these mysterious women in a way that makes us want to know more about them, especially surrounding the question of whether their abilities are real or just an act.
The film continues on its path of mystery, becoming more intriguing as Laura is thrust into the spotlight of André’s film exploring the work of mediums, this section reminiscent of something like Sunset Boulevard in its brief assessment of star quality. Kate, who is believed to have the real gift of talking to the dead, is resigned to the sidelines for a while. Zlotowski’s direction of Depp seems to be more focused on her appearance, which gives off an otherworldly air, but doesn’t give much space to assess her acting.
After this point, Planetarium loses steam and becomes a tangle of separate storylines, characters and locations that leave us guessing how they will come together, only to be disappointed when they don’t. The film tries to subtly hint at contextual tie-ins of the era, some of which are done well, for example Laura discovering something very similar about the noses of André and his film crew. However, everything is too subtle and vague to have an impactful reveal as the film draws to a close.
It’s a shame because the idea behind Planetarium is interesting, and the visual style in the opening credits is promising, but the storytelling lacks presence, which makes it not much more than a collection of pretty but vacuous sequences.
Cast: Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp, Emmanuel Salinger, Louis Garrel, Amira Casar
Writers: Rebecca Zlotowski, Robin Campillo
Director: Rebecca Zlotowski
Synopsis: Two American sisters performing as mediums cross paths with a French film producer whilst performing in Paris.