Why Claire Foy’s Performance in First Man Deserves an Oscar

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We’re finally getting into the best time of the year. The NBA is in full gear, the holidays are around the corner, and yes oh yes…IT’S OSCAR MOVIE SZN! I’d like to give everyone full transparency: I have not seen every movie that has some out this year. I know…crazy right? In fact, with being in Italy for the semester, I’ve really only seen a few films since August. The three I have seen are A Star Is Born, First Man, and Halloween. While Halloween was my favorite film of the bunch, there was a performance in another film that really stood out to me. This actress’ performance in the film really caught me off guard, as it has my favorite working actor in Ryan Gosling as the lead role. That film is First Man, and Claire Foy is the actress people should be talking about.

For those who are not familiar, First Man is pretty much a biopic of Neil Armstrong and his journey to the moon. While the film does include the moon landing, it really focuses on Neil, his family, and his career. Intertwined in all three of these things is his wife Janet, played brilliantly by Claire Foy. First Man has many fantastic performances. Ryan freaking Gosling is in this film, and yet I walked away from the movie thinking “man, Claire Foy was fantastic in that”. I think this was the case for a few reasons.

One, Janet Armstrong was there for Neil from the beginning (of the film that is). We really see her life change with Neil’s, as he moves forward in NASA. Gosling plays Armstrong pretty much the same throughout the whole film. In fact, a lot of people didn’t really like his performance because it was seemingly one-note (I couldn’t disagree more with that). This is contrasted by Foy’s dynamic performance that changes from the start to the ending. In the movie, there’s a scene where Foy’s Janet describes why she married Neil by saying something like “He seemed normal. And I wanted a normal life”. Much to her surprise, Neil’s life as a member of NASA during the space race has given her a life of chaos, and endless paranoia about if her husband is going to come home or not. Since this is a story about stuff that actually happened, I’ll go a little into some minor spoilers.

Some of Neil’s close friends in the film die suddenly. This means that those men leave behind wives and children who no longer have a husband or father. This is especially hard for Janet because the same situation could happen to her. Who’s to say that Neil isn’t the next person in NASA to tragically die? Because of this, Janet forces Neil to confront his sons and tell them that their father may not be coming home after his mission to the moon. Foy’s delivery in this scene is so utterly realistic, and the emotion portrayed is just breathtaking. Janet slowly started to feel like a ticking time-bomb that was just waiting to go off. The subtle shifts from Janet in the start of the film, to the middle of the film, and lastly to the end are all due to Foy’s performance. 

The reason why Janet was so amazing in this film is because of the performance Foy gave. Her dialogue was good, but it’s what she portrayed without even speaking that was so amazing to me. What really set out Foy’s performances from others I’ve seen this year (Lady Gaga for example) is what she was able to do with no dialogue, just acting. There was so much emotion in her eyes during First Man. I had the opportunity to see the film on the IMAX screen at the BFI in London. It was quite brilliant, and Foy’s facial expressions were especially memorable on a screen of that size. She captured the character in such an elegant way and deserves to be recognized for doing so. 

During one of Neil’s missions, Janet is sitting next to a radio. Can you imagine having to listen, like everyone else in America, to sounds that tell you if you have a husband or if he had just died? In this scene Janet doesn’t really talk. She’s just glued to that radio, as we all would be given her situation. It’s little acts like this that made Foy’s performance really really stand out to me in First Man.

As much as Foy’s performance is about what she did do during the film, to me it’s also about what she didn’t do. Janet wasn’t an annoying wife that took away from the suspense of the film. She wasn’t a character that you found tasteless, even though she very well could be. Her husband’s life is on the line 24/7 and even though she’s terrified, Foy’s performance delivers a grounded take on a person who could otherwise have taken away from the film. Instead, due to her electric performance as Janet Armstrong, Foy turns a good film into a great one while also giving a strong case to be receiving the Best Supporting Actress Oscar next year.  

Trey Mitchell

The creator of The All Around. I'm a student at the University of Tampa. Originally from Denver, Colorado. I've written for Star Wars News Net and Dig in Denver.

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