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article imageReview: TIFF 2018: Cheer on ‘The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 11, 2018 in Entertainment
‘The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia’ is a sweet comedy about a woman who can’t wait for her second chance at life on another planet.
In addition to being hilarious, there was another reason fans gravitated towards Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series — it was about an ordinary bloke in uncommon circumstances in an alien world. If the truth is, in fact, out there, perhaps one day some aspect of these stories could prove to be true. Forget travelling the world… people could travel the universe. In The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia, a woman with a relatively banal existence is presented the opportunity of a lifetime and she can’t wait to accept.
Celeste (María Isabel Díaz) is a retired teacher now utilizing her skills to educate visitors to the local planetarium. When the newspaper announces a special news bulletin later that evening, no one expected them to not only confirm the existence of extraterrestrials, but reveal they’ve lived amongst Cubans for several years. Having returned to their home planet, Gryok, the night before, they are now offering to bring a group of humans to their world for a 10-year visitation and information exchange. Celeste is shocked by the news and then very excited to realize she’s received a personal invitation from her odd “Russian” neighbour, who actually turned out to be an alien. As preparations for the journey begin, Celeste embraces the possibilities that await her.
This is a movie about second chances. Celeste is content in her life, but she also has a list of regrets and a history of lost opportunities. Her sister comes around when she wants something, but they otherwise have little in common; she sees her adult son even less and he’s fairly indifferent about their relationship. She’s satisfied at work, but still yearns to be a teacher as demonstrated by her enthusiasm to resume the role on Gryok. During preparations for her journey, Celeste recollects some of the more significant moments in her life, which included an unhappy marriage whose only real joy was motherhood.
There are some quirks that serve as inside jokes for Cuban audiences, such as the location of the pre-departure prep centre and the uniforms worn by the facilitators, but there’s enough universal humour spread throughout to gratify most viewers. It’s a comfortable, familial comedy, rather than touting anything too out of this world. Celeste is very likeable, positioned as the kind neighbour everyone says hello to, including the smitten butcher (Omar Franco) who’d like to say a little more. Meanwhile, it seems at least one of the extraterrestrials was doing more than observing as his unborn child proves to be far more vocal than human babies. The mandatory exercises at the waystation are amusing as they appear to primarily be busy work until the spacecraft arrives. But in spite of all the good vibes, there’s a seedy element trying to stowaway and potentially ruin the expedition.
The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia had its world premiere in the Discovery category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2018 coverage.
Director: Arturo Infante
Starring: María Isabel Díaz, Omar Franco and Néstor Jiménez
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