Teen Volunteer Review: First Man

Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Today, Boston Latin School student Elizabeth Choi is sharing her thoughts on the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man.

First Man, as the title might suggest, is about Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and the moon landing. It also gives the audience insight into his family life and how he dealt with the death of his young daughter, Karen.

The film had some good moments, like its scenes of the moon and documentary-like shots. I also thought it was interesting how the flashbacks of the family before Karen Armstrong’s death were saturated with color, which contrasted with the gloomy tones of the present. However, the movie’s good qualities did not make up for its slow pace, lack of tension, and cast of bland characters.

While it had a good start, the movie slows down considerably by the second half.This could have been used effectively, but did not have enough suspense to hold everything together. Instead, the movie felt dull and too long. Both the wobbling camera work and the quick, flashing scenes of Armstrong in space were overused and hurt my eyes rather than added drama.

Additionally, the acting was weak. Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy are good actors, but they didn’t shine as they do in La La Land and The Crown. If Neil Armstrong was truly that reserved, then Gosling did well in portraying him. But being shy doesn’t mean unlikable; Armstrong in First Man wasn’t someone for whom the audience could root. Even when he stepped foot on the moon, there was no great feeling of triumph that I had been expecting. Similarly, his wife (Foy's character) could have been more charismatic. I was indifferent toward the two and wanted the movie to be over. I wouldn’t watch this again.