In the northern summer of 1979, the 850-tonne American space station Skylab spiralled out of control and began hurtling towards Earth, causing global media interest and hysteria.

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PIAF FILM
Skylab (M)
Lou Alvarez, Julie Delpy, Eric Elmosnino
Director: Julie Delpy
Review: Lucy Gibson
You'll like this if you liked Two Days in New York, The Royal Tenenbaums, the films of Woody Allen, in particular Hannah and Her Sisters.

In the northern summer of 1979, the 850-tonne American space station Skylab spiralled out of control and began hurtling towards Earth, causing global media interest and hysteria.

Such was the world's preoccupation with Skylab's demise that entrepreneurs sold T-shirts and hats with a bullseye on them and bets were taken as to where it would hit land (debris was eventually found south-east of Perth).

The Skylab incident serves as a backdrop in writer-director Julie Delpy's nostalgia-drenched comedy-drama of the same name about an extended family's boozy gathering in Brittany during that eventful summer.

Indeed, it occupies the thoughts of 11-year-old Albertine, through whose eyes we see events unfold.

We are first introduced to Albertine all grown up (Karin Viard) as she's boarding a train with her husband and two young children.

As she takes her seat and stares out of the window, memories come flooding back to the time when, as a child, she travelled with her family to Brittany to celebrate Granny Amandine's (Bernadette Lafont) 67th birthday.

The film then flashes back to when the young Albertine (Lou Alvarez) arrived in Brittany to spend a brief but life-changing holiday with her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Delpy was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (the sequel to Before Sunrise). Her script for her last film Two Days in New York (still screening in some cinemas) was also a wry observation of how life becomes trickier the older you get.

In Skylab, her autobiographic trip down memory lane, we see things through the eyes of a youngster and Alvarez delivers a gorgeous performance as Albertine, exuding both confidence when she's among her cousins and vulnerability when she falls in love with an older boy for the first time.

Her concern that her family members will all be killed if Skylab crashes down on them, also reflects how in tune she is with the world around her.

However, Delpy also taps into the psyche of the other generations, working from a palette of eccentric characters including the lovable and forgetful Uncle Hubert played by her own father, Albert.

Equally as colourful are Albertine's left-wing, street-theatre performer parents Anna (Delpy) and Jean (Eric Elmosnino) who talk openly with their daughter about sex.

Like her mentor Woody Allen, to whom she is constantly compared, Delpy once more has crafted a delightful screenplay with a host of complex characters to charm and amuse us.

And while Skylab is a little bit laboured at times, it's a nostalgic and thoughtful film which celebrates those quirky imperfections in every family.