Richard Linklater was a week shy of his ninth birthday when the Apollo 11 moon landing took place in 1969, but he was in orbit well before that when he stared out the classroom windows at the sky and dreamed of lift off.
Now, in his lovingly animated, curiously nostalgic new film, Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, he lets that fantasy play out for a young schoolboy named Stanley (Milo Coy) growing up in suburban Texas at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius.
The film’s story, if you can call it that, is little more than a fabulist’s hoax: In 1968, two Nasa officials explain to Stanley that the landing capsule they built is too small due to an embarrassing miscalculation for adults. This wide-eyed novice becomes a lone astronaut on a secret moon mission before Armstrong and Aldrin even land.
Linklater delays all of these fictional developments by half and puts all tension on the back burner. At its core, Apollo 10½ is much more about Linklater’s memories of a boisterous, happily exhausted childhood, with broken bones on the sports field, long days spent on the front lawn, or watching cult TV shows like Dark Shadows Back-to-back while munching on meatloaf.
Stanley has five siblings, a father who disappoints him as an insignificant dog in the NASA works, and a mother who cooks sandwiches for her children all school week, leading to some discovering partially thawed nonsense at lunchtime. We’re getting a low key generation gap here: Parents distrust hippies while their daughters think Janis Joplin and The Monkees are the best. Her grandmother drags her to The Sound of Music a dozen times, but Stanley is far more spellbound when 2001: A Space Odyssey comes out and marvels at him over and over again.
The release of this film, a year after the tragic Apollo 1 test launch that killed all three on board, and a year before Nasa’s triumph, was exceptionally good time to capture everyone’s imagination and break the rocket fever benefit that gripped the world. Alongside this, we are also shown the Cold War paranoia that still gripped heartland America, with classrooms given drills to brace themselves under their desks as if nuclear fallout respected such subtleties.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/apollo-10-12a-space-age-childhood-review-little-boy-walked-moon/ A Space Age Childhood, review – the little boy who walked on the Moon