Cosmic Fling

By Jonathan Langager | Animation
An intergalactic garbage man who lives on an asteroid falls for astronaut on a comet.

Stan is an intergalactic garbage man who lives alone on an asteroid. For food, he corrals space debris using a special harpoon and converts it to nourishment. But he dreams of more than survival -- he dreams about love.

One day, he spots something floating in space: Beatrice, a fellow astronaut, who is stranded on a comet passing by his asteroid. He falls instantly in love with her, but the comet doesn't return to his orbit very often. Driven to be with her, he has to resort to extreme measures to capture her affections -- but it may come at a cost.

Co-writer and director Jonathan Langager's lovely blend of practicals, live-action and puppetry -- co-written with Ali Scher and produced by Christian Hall -- adds a poignant charm to this short romance. The almost lo-fi stylization of its intergalactic space setting is captivating, but the narrative still touches upon the deep sense of loneliness and isolation we often feel -- and the strength of our yearning to connect and love, no matter how hard it may be.

The storytelling is straightforward and measured, told entirely without dialogue and aided with the help of a lovely, almost nostalgic score that evokes the golden lushness of old Hollywood films. But the real magic is found in the visual approach, which is a sweetly eclectic mix of different techniques.

The craftsmanship mixes puppetry with both digital and practical effects, and the effect is often both old-fashioned yet timelessly beguiling. The handmade, tactile whimsicality of the puppetry -- which was accomplished with the help of master puppeteer Phillip Huber, who worked on Being John Malkovich -- has a unique expressiveness, with their bodies both awkward and yet almost innocent in their gestures and lines.

But their faces are live-action actors -- Josh Fadem as Stan and Caitlin McGee as Beatrice -- which capture the subtle currents of feelings that flow and flutter in the charming narrative. It's a transfixing juxtaposition that gets at a key tension -- the character's inner worlds of emotions are subtle, specific and strong, and yet their bodies and movements are limited. Reconciling this tension is part of the journey for Stan, and the solution he devises is both ingenious, romantic but also drastic.

The ending of "Cosmic Fling" is soaringly romantic in many ways, but it also contains a strong undertow of melancholy, especially as scenes from the more conventional life together flashes by. Yet the ending also deeply relatable, especially at a time when loneliness, isolation and social distancing are hampering our own connections in our lives. "Cosmic Fling" has a gossamer-light treatment of a deep human truth: we are wired to connect and to be together. It's a drive so strong that we are willing to risk anything, just to feel the closeness and presence of another person in our lives.

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