A nuclear fusion scientist at conference in New Orleans with her kids hangs out with a group of Furries while a major hurricane gathers offshore

Robin Weigert (Emmy-nominated for Deadwood; Big Little Lies; Synechdoche, New York; Angels in America) stars as Dr. Marcy Later, a scientist who has devoted her life to nuclear fusion — a potential solution to climate change, which has nonetheless become the butt of jokes from the scientific community for being interminably delayed. (A familiar quip goes: “Fusion is thirty years away, and always will be.”) Now a middle-aged mother facing a world on the brink of catastrophe, Dr. Later understands that the dream of fusion in her lifetime may never be fulfilled.

At a fusion conference in New Orleans with her son and daughter, Dr. Later goes through the motions of her professional responsibilities while trying to keep alive the optimism and wonder of her children. She is intrigued, though, by a group of carefree Furries, in full animal suits, who are attending their own gathering at the same hotel. Above it all, and as the news keeps reminding her, an unseasonably strong hurricane, known as “Hurricane Stella,” looms off the coast, threatening the city.

I know I’m not alone in being both terrified and apathetic about climate change. It’s a very strange way to feel, and a little bit absurd. With Stella for Star, I wanted to investigate what that feeling might be like for a scientist trying to solve this slowly approaching catastrophe.

The film adopts a steady pace progression with a magnitude that slowly creeps up on you. Dr. Macy’s character arc develops with little conflict on the surface, but we can feel the internal struggle blooming. And while the resolution of that struggle may not come through in an obvious way, the metaphorical forecast certainly spells things out for us.

Stella for Star was developed in coordination with fusion scientists Dr. Francesco Volpe and Dr. Paul Hughes at Columbia University, and included visits to fusion conferences as well as to the world’s leading fusion experiment, ITER, in France. Stella for Star received a generous production award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in recognition of its scientific themes and accuracy, as well as an equipment grant from the Panavision New Filmmakers Program.