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Small Details You Missed In The Midnight Sky

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

George Clooney's The Midnight Sky is filled with stunning images of outer space, intense scenes of survival against the elements, and many, many statements about the human condition. The movie follows two sets of characters amid their perilous and isolated journeys, and while they might be separated by a great distance, Clooney's Augustine and Felicity Jones' Sully have a lot more in common than either of them knows.

As their stories become intertwined throughout the movie, there are a lot of subtle details and nods to the book upon which it is based — Lily Brooks-Dalton's Good Morning, Midnight — so read on to find out some of the small details in The Midnight Sky that you may have missed. But please beware, this post is filled with spoilers about both the film and the book.

A howling image

In the beginning of The Midnight Sky, after Augustine has been voluntarily left behind by the evacuating researchers, he proceeds to clean out the belongings of those who left and throws away a small statue of a wolf. Fans of Good Morning, Midnight might recognize the significance of that figurine as it's something of a nod to a key scene from the book. In the novel, Augie has several memorable encounters with arctic animals, including one in which a white wolf approaches Iris, the young girl he discovers and cares for in the observatory center.

In the book, Augie extinguishes the animal with a shotgun for fear that it will hurt Iris. But she's actually very upset by this because she read a field guide that indicates arctic wolves may not be aggressive to humans since they don't fear them. In a later scene from The Midnight Sky, Iris can be seen cuddling with a stuffed dog, which is another nod to her compassion for the animal.

Playing for two

Another wink to Brooks-Dalton's book is also contained in the early scenes of The Midnight Sky as Augie sits in front of an abandoned chess game that he can't play — because, at this point in the film, he has not yet discovered Iris. This image serves to highlight Augustine's boredom and loneliness in the remote research facility. But in the book, the game has additional significance.

In the novel, Augie makes a point of teaching the game of chess to Iris after they successfully travel to the other location with the satellite that can make contact with the Aether. Considering it's at this location that Augie eventually communicates with Sully — who is the actual, grown-up version of Iris — to offer her some guidance for the next move she and the rest of the Aether crew will make, the game-instruction is something of a metaphor for their connection.

The perfect pair

Augie and little Iris aren't the only ones who play classic games to pass the time. Onboard the Aether, there is a brief shot of Sully and David Oyelowo's Adewole playing cards, which is a callback to several book scenes when Sully played Rummy 500 with Adewole's book counterpart, Harper. 

As in the novel, there's more to their relationship than merely being professional colleagues; Sully and Adewole have developed a romantic relationship during their mission to discover K-23, a habitable moon of Jupiter. And that kinship was probably solidified during some of these one-on-one card games. Of course, in The Midnight Sky, their bond is formed much faster and before we even meet the characters, as Sully and Adewole are even expecting a child that they have clearly conceived onboard the ship.

A family competition

Kyle Chandler's character Mitchell is also very similar to a central book character named Ivanov, who also leaves behind a beloved family with young children to join the K-23 mission. In the movie, Mitchell turns to a room with a holographic memory of his own kitchen to mimic spending time with his wife and sons. But there's also another, more subtle way that he honors his family that only fans of the book will recognize.

In an early scene from the Aether, Mitchell can be seen playing an intense video game that features him fighting with jungle creatures. Not only does it provide a great form of exercise and entertainment, but the act of playing the game is also something of a tribute to his sons. In the book, Ivanov similarly spends a lot of time playing video games, and we eventually learn that it's something he decided to do to keep up a friendly competition with his children so that they could all feel close, even when they were so far apart.

A cold heart

One of the major themes explored in both Good Morning, Midnight and The Midnight Sky is how much regret Augie has over his choices in life — particularly those that made him so alone long before the apocalypse rendered him the last man on Earth. In the book, Augie especially laments the way that he has treated the women in his life; as a young, hotshot scientist and academic, Augie used his good looks and intelligence to court many women and then abandoned them just to gather data about how they would react. In his youth, he justified his mistreatment of lovers as something of an emotional experiment, and the only woman who he ever developed genuine feelings for was Jean.

In the movie, a key flashback sequence reveals that he has been similarly dismissive to Jean and hints at Augustine's long-standing emotional cruelty. When she visits him, he brushes her off and seems callously unmoved by her obvious sadness over his refusal to open up to her.

A symbol for the future

Speaking of Jean, there's a tiny nod to her family's future contained in one of those flashback scenes between her and Augie. In the moment when young Augie spots Jean and her daughter visiting the observatory he works at and approaches to say hello, a close-up image of her profile shows that she's wearing an earring with three tiny dots.

That symbol could easily represent a cluster of stars — perhaps Orion's belt or even Pyxis — but it is also extremely similar to the emblem on the K-23 mission badges that can be seen on the Aether crew's uniforms. Since we later learn that Sully is actually Iris, the now-grown daughter of Augie and Jean, and Jean's earrings are spotted in the scene when Augie first sees her as a little girl, the jewelry can be perceived as a very subtle hint at the future to come for Iris and her troubled little family.

Space walk

Another tiny hint at Augie's connection to Sully can be found in the very same flashback scene as the earrings. As Jean scoots her daughter into the car, the girl's clothes, face, and hair are all well concealed, and it's not clear what she looks like. The only detail we can clearly make out is her shoes, and they are remarkably similar to the ones worn by Iris when Augie discovers her hiding in the observatory kitchen.

It is not until much later in the movie that we get to see the full image of Jean's daughter in her car as she drives away, confirming that the little girl from that moment is indeed Iris, and Augie has merely imagined spending his final days protecting her in the Arctic research centers. If you take a second look at the scene, the matching shoes definitely give audiences a hint about what's to come long before the big reveal.

What's in a name?

Another clue about Sully's true identity as Iris happens onboard the Aether after Sully has her ultrasound with Tiffany Boone's Maya. Although Sully initially declines to find out the sex of her child, she must change her mind shortly thereafter because word quickly gets out around the ship that she and Adewole will have a daughter. After that, their crew members begin to share some name suggestions. 

One comes from Mitchell, who tells Adewole that he should consider the name Hyacinth, which is his own mother's name and stems from "some kind of flower." The suggestion becomes something of a running joke for Sully and the crew, but the oddball name is also a nod to Sully's own name. See, for those who aren't botanical experts, the hyacinth flower can be easily confused with the iris,  because they are both perennial and have drooping purple petals.

Like mother, like daughter

Another moment of a name choice potentially paying tribute to the source material comes by way of Sully's own list of potential baby names. When she first reveals to Adewole that they are expecting a girl, she trots away while listing off a few candidates for what to call her, some of which she may be joking about. The list includes Trudy, Roxy, Penelope, Margot, Maggie, and Henrietta.

Though it's obvious none of these are likely to be in contention for the birth certificate, the first of those from her list is extremely similar to the name that the book version of Sully gave to her own daughter, Lucy. Unlike poor Lucy, though, this baby girl will have the fortune of avoiding the unexplained apocalypse on Earth, because she will be safe in her mom's belly as she and Adewole turn back from Earth to make way for the safety of K-23.

Which "her"?

Perhaps the biggest clue that Augie is conjuring his images of and mostly one-sided conversations with little Iris comes just before the most (literally) chilling scene of the film. As the two are shown making their difficult journey to the satellite station, they take refuge in an empty outpost trailer and have a brief conversation about his past, including Jean and their daughter. That's when Iris says the one and only thing we hear from her, as she asks, "Did you love her?" 

The her in that sentence could be referring to either Jean or the kid, and it's what happens next that confirms this is really just Augie asking himself that simple but important question.

Immediately after she asks it, Augie violently awakens to find the outpost sinking into freezing water as the building descends into the crackling ice, and he has to fight to escape the room before it is completely underwater. Not only does the timing of this rude awakening indicate that he has merely dreamt the sound of her voice — which he has probably never actually heard, given the heaping distance between himself and the real child Iris — but the fact that she's later shown completely unfazed by the blistering cold while he's very clearly freezing to death also hints that she's just a figment of his imagination and memories.