“The Midnight Sky” takes this feeling of uninhabitability even further. Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) is an unhealthy scientist whose career and personality have isolated him not only from the concept of family or community, but from humanity itself. After a cataclysmic event quickly threatens to extinguish life on Earth, rather than flee with his colleagues, he chooses to remain alone at his research base in the Arctic. His plans are hijacked when he crosses paths with a young girl, apparently left behind in the rush to evacuate. This child may have attracted the worst of all: Earth itself is hostile to him, and despite Augustine’s best efforts, he will likely find himself powerless to offer her protection.
The concept of a wanderer who has deliberately rejected the pitfalls of a family unit but is suddenly immersed in the role of caretaker is an inherently compelling concept, and the deep bond they have between them is no less powerful for its ephemeral. A feeling of impermanence is the common thread of many films exploring this dynamic. As the ersatz fathers and children grow older, the specter of their ultimate separation looms over the debates. The Kid may have been raised by Chaplin’s Tramp, but his mother is still alive and mourning her loss, not to mention the law enforcement officers who are determined to remove the child from what they see as a inappropriate focus. Chaplin’s best actor is reserved for their separation, his haunting eyes devastated and helpless as he fights in vain to free himself from the cops holding him back and save the Kid from a paddy wagon. No matter how much he loves his potential son, the Kid is not the Tramp to keep.
Likewise, the Mandalorian and Captain Kidd’s encounters with their respective children have a clear expiration date. The Mandalorian is tasked with escorting the child safely to the Jedi, at which point, presumably, their relationship will end. It is only with some reluctance and growing fear that he recognizes that his time with the Child may not be endless. Captain Kidd discovers Johanna alone in the forest, a young girl who has been uprooted twice, first from her German immigrant family during a raid on Kiowa, and then when her Kiowa family were killed by soldiers of the Union. She must be returned to her only remaining parents, an aunt and uncle a few hundred miles away, and Captain Kidd is the only person willing to take this journey with her. Their journey across the Texas border takes many turns, but it has a clear destination in mind nonetheless. There is no point in getting attached; Kidd’s role in all of this, as it is with his profession as a news reader, is to serve as an emissary, nothing more. Augustine’s situation is a little different. He has no real mission to accomplish other than protecting his young companion, once it becomes clear that no one will return for her. But still, it’s hard to think of a more definitive end point to their relationship than a mass extinction event already underway.