Synopsis: Aloft tells of a struggling mother who encounters the son she abandoned 20 years earlier.
Release Date: June 5, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Art movies can be a tricky thing. It’s difficult to walk the line between accessibility and creativity, especially when dealing with visual storytelling. When a filmmaker does it right, the results can be unforgettable. When they do it wrong, you get a movie like Aloft.
Aloft is about a woman named Nana Kunning (Requiem for a Dream‘s Jennifer Connelly) who travels a great distance across the Canadian tundra to take her son to a faith healer. Once there, her other son’s pet falcon disrupts the proceedings and is shot. So Nana is left with one unhealed son, and one son who is heartbroken over the loss of his beloved bird. Fast forward twenty years and the falconry-loving son, Ivan (Cillian Murphy from The Dark Knight Rises), is married with a child of his own. He is visited by a journalist named Jannia (Mélanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds) who is working on a documentary about the old faith healer, an enigmatic man who calls himself The Architect. Jannia initially just asks for an interview with Ivan, but she soon agrees to let him tag along as she ventures forth to pay The Architect a visit. However, both Ivan and Jannia have their own separate, and secret, reasons for wanting to find the old faith healer.
Aloft is a mess of a film. Written and directed by Claudia Llosa (The Milk of Sorrow), it’s got some striking imagery, and even has one truly chilling scene (hint – it involves the death of one of the sons), but mostly, it tries to be inventive at the expense of the narrative. Aloft gets tangled up with phony spirituality, corny symbolism, and thinly veiled attempts to humanize characters that, frankly, aren’t very likeable. The performances aren’t bad – Connelly, Laurent, and Murphy soldier through the film like the pros that they are – but there just isn’t much there for the actors to work with in the first place. The foundation of Aloft is weak, so everything built on top of it crumbles as well.
It’s interesting that Aloft should be released around the same time as Love & Mercy. Both films skip back and forth between two time periods, but they each handle the dual timelines very differently. Love & Mercy goes to great lengths, both photographically and character-wise, to let the viewer know exactly which timeline they are watching. Aloft just lets the audience guess, causing a ton of confusion and frustration; the fact that Aloft is swinging between the past and present is barely even alluded to, leaving the viewer to basically guess how the events fit together. And they’ll probably guess wrong.
Ultimately, Aloft feels like Llosa shot a first draft of the script, a draft that needed to be cleaned up and polished. There are some really intriguing ideas, but they get bogged down in all of the non-linear pretension and faux-philosophy. Somewhere inside Aloft is a good movie just dying to get out, but as it is now, it’s a wreck.
The strongest element in Aloft is its cinematography. It’s a very cold movie, and it has a very cold look, similar to that of other sub-zero temperature movies like Leviathan or The Grey. Much of the movie was shot on location in Manitoba, Canada, so the ice and snow is real. Director of photography Nicolas Bolduc (Enemy) uses plenty of earthy, neutral colors like greys and browns to give the film a dirty, dingy look that goes along nicely with the frigid feel. Bolduc also manages to show just enough of the barren-yet-beautiful Canadian landscape to distract from the fact that, most of the time, nothing else is happening onscreen. If there’s a reason to see Aloft, it’s Bolduc’s fascinatingly freezing photography.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Claudia Llosa
- Producer(s): Ibon CormenzanaPhyllis LaingJosé María Morales
- Screenwriter(s): Claudia Llosa
- Cast: Jennifer ConnellyCillian MurphyMélanie Laurent
- Editor(s): Guillermo de la Cal
- Cinematographer: Nicolas Bolduc
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Heather Neale
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Michael Brook
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: SpainCanada