An explanation for Alex's behavior arrives about 20 minutes into the movie, but it's enough of a fun surprise -- and it's handled in a clever way -- that you might want to go in cold to the movie. (Warning: Mild spoilers follow.) Khraiche's camera follows Alex on his way out of Orbiter 9 and he's shown walking through a dark passageway, into an elevator, and finally out into the middle of a forest. He's on Earth -- and so is Helena. Instead of boldly going where no one has gone before, Helena is little more than a lab rat running in a wheel, submitting to tests and analysis from an all-seeing eye. She's living out her own low-stakes version of The Truman Show.
The explanation for why these tests must be carried out on individuals who aren't clued in to the fact that they're in a simulation isn't exactly nuanced -- I think it gives the government overlords better test results -- but it doesn't really matter. The script is packed with references to ongoing environmental disasters like "acid tides" that have made Earth almost uninhabitable. What does matter? Alex's newfound devotion to Helena, whom he can't stop thinking about. He goes home to his cluttered apartment and obsesses over her. Eventually he describes her situation, the way the Orbiter test subjects are treated like "human guinea pigs," to his wolf therapist, who is actually controlled by a non-wolf woman played by Belén Rueda. She more or less tells him to follow his heart.
Soon, Alex returns to Orbiter 9, frees Helena, who is scared but oddly not that mad that Alex was once her captor, and takes her on the run with him. He removes her "biowitness" tracking implant, exposes the cameras on the ship, and manages to keeps his sinister boss off his tale. That gives Alex and Helena plenty of time to kiss in the rain, visit an an aquarium, and tour his favorite local junk shop together. He even shows her how to eat with chopsticks and introduces her to the joys of Coca-Cola. (What a cute couple!) Unfortunately, the twists don't exactly keep coming.
The movie becomes more and more conventional as it reaches the end of its brisk 94-minute runtime, devolving into a series of shootouts, chase scenes, and gruff meetings between authority figures. As the finale nears, you'll likely find yourself nodding off and dreaming about glossier Hollywood products like Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian, which explore similar concepts with bigger stars and budgets. As the actual Earth becomes less livable, our space movies feel like they're becoming less imaginative and more practical. These stories skimp on breathless adventure and cosmic detours; instead, they're all about surviving. Orbiter 9 suggests if you have to rough it out in space, do it with someone you love.