Linklater’s latest a futuristic look at the past

Texas filmmaker turns again to live-action animation to tell real-life stories

Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood
Where: Netflix
What: Movie, 97 mins.
When: Now
Genre: Coming-of-age story

Why you should watch: Richard Linklater again employs live-action animation, as in his previous film, Waking Life. It’s a story about a very specific moment in time while also exploring universal themes of growing up and family dynamics. It’s a deeply personal movie about coming of age in the shadow of NASA in 1969 Houston, but it also manages to tell many universal tales.

If nothing else, Richard Linklater’s latest foray into live-action animation, similar to what he employed in his 2001 “cartoon” Waking Life, manages to explain the childhood dreams of white middle class boomers in a way that evokes heartstring tugs of nostalgia, even for those who weren’t there.

Ultimately, it’s about childhood and how children are left to decode the somewhat inexplicable actions of adults over which kids

Like Linklater, the film’s adolescent protagonist grows up in suburban Houston in the ’60s. Many of the neighbours, including his dad, work in NASA’s space program. There’s a fable-like quality to the film that sees our hero somehow become part of that program himself, like some drowsy waking dream where the line between reality and imagination is blurred and the kid will ultimately wake to wonder what was real and what was imagined.

There are many, timeless, intimate family moments that will resonate no matter what generation you are from. Little pokes between siblings fighting for couch space or control of the TV are universal. And who doesn’t crave the almost hallucinatory comfort of being carried and deposited half-awake into bed by a caring parent? Linklater’s use of live-action animation helps blur the lines of perception much in the way a child coexists in a world of knee-scraping reality combined with all-consuming imagination.

But for all its universals, Apollo 10 ½ is also very much about a moment in time when Modernism ruled above all else. Anxious to put a planet-threatening world war in Europe behind them forever — how’d that work out? — the film captures 1969, a time when the past was to be purged and modernity was supposed to save the planet. The plan was that technology would eliminate inequity and other conditions that led to war. Somehow, this belief wasn’t dampened by the fact that there was a major war taking place involving the U.S. at the time.

A warm, whimsical film whose triggers are all the good kind, flashes of intimate moments of childhood that many can relate to.