Spoiler alert! The following details the ending of Netflix's "The Midnight Sky," so beware if you haven't watched it yet.
The film follows astronomer Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), a terminally ill man who decides to live out his life in the Arctic Circle while deadly radiation spreads across the globe. He protects a young stowaway named Iris (Caoilinn Springall) as he tries to warn a returning crew of astronauts to stay away from the planet.
Augustine communicates with Sully (Felicity Jones), a pregnant member of the spaceship Aether – which is returning from a newly discovered Jupiter moon K23 – and the audience learns that Sully is actually Iris Sullivan, the grown-up daughter Augustine never got to know. Which means little Iris was a figment of a dying man’s imagination and also a symbol for his redemption.
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That “moving” and revelatory scene “was why I wanted to do the film,” Jones tells USA TODAY. “That sort of reconciliation with one's past is quite an emotional moment.”
Living with regret (in Augustine's case, not connecting with his daughter until the end) is something Clooney thought a lot about making "Midnight Sky."
"I have people I know who are older than me, who live with a great deal – huge, big regrets in their life," he says. "And it doesn't get better when you get older. It festers like a cancer in you and it makes you bitter and angry and (ticked) off at time itself and all those things. The desperate need for redemption, in some ways, it's molecular to us."
For Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), Aether's pilot, what's core to him is getting home. Having spent their two-year mission missing his family, he decides to take an escape pod back to Earth with his buddy Sanchez (Demian Bichir) to try and find his loved ones. Meanwhile, Sully and her partner, Commander Tom Adewole (David Oyelowo), choose to head back to K23, a livable place for humans, and pretty much restart the human race.
What Chandler liked about Mitchell’s ending was that, at age 55 and a family man himself, he could understand the decision. “I still want to smell the ocean one more time. I want to touch Mother Earth," he says. "I can't just go back and ride in cold space out to this new place we found, this new world.”
As for Sully and Tom, they have a quiet moment where they realize the enormity of what they’re about to do. As the credits roll, they get back to work aboard the ship.
“There's a strange peacefulness to the ending, isn't there?” Jones says. “There's a pragmatism to it, which is quite interesting having gone through a near-apocalypse as we have over the last few months. It is amazing how the practical does just take over.
“Also, it's a celebration of love in a sense. It's the love between Adewole and Sully that'll keep them going. Their focus is the future of their child and ensuring that that is a safe future.”
Oyelowo feels the finale – inspired by "The Graduate" – is indicative of the film’s meditative and cerebral qualities. “You cannot play the emotion of what would it be like to essentially be Adam and Eve," he says. "What would it be like to be coming back to a planet knowing that it is pretty much done? What is it like to be tasked with going to find a planet for humanity to colonize and inhabit? These are existential questions that are just too mind-blowing.
“You can only play the reality of what is in front of you,” he says. “It allows the audience time to breathe and to reflect and to maybe even project what they would do under those circumstances. That ending is kind of perfect because what else is there to do but to now get on with it?”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘The Midnight Sky’ spoilers: George Clooney's cast unpacks that ending