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    Aloft (2015): Movie Review

    "Boring and trying-hard."

    It is a gift when one can spin an epic tale from a simple story. But when one attempts and fails to do so, what results is a long and winding torturous narrative. Perhaps, this is what happened to Peruvian writer-director and former Oscar nominee Claudia LLosa and her 64th Berlin International Film Festival entry Aloft. Having won the Golden Bear for her magical realism film “The Milk of Sorrow” at the same film festival back in 2009, much is expected for her first English language film. Unfortunately, there is no magic this time. 

    The film, after much analysis while watching it, is basically two events from two timelines, approximately 20 years apart. It opens with the older scale with Nana Kunning (Jennifer Connelly) attending to a pig which is giving birth, indicating that the movie will be about a mother-child relationship. Nana has two kids and one of which suffers from a terminal medical condition. She takes him to a New Age healer (William Shimell) who performs his services inside a delicate canopy of branches. A disaster ensues during her visit but this ends in a revelation that Nana also has healing powers. Since then, she begins to assist him in curing sick children. 

    In the other timeline, documentary maker Jannia Ressmore (Melanie Laurent) visits the home of a hawk breeder for a project she has been working on. Ivan (Cillian Murphy), a temperamental family man, is the estranged son of Nana. After the fated death of his brother, Nana left him to his grandfather and never went back. Now, Nana has become a famous healer and guru and Jannia, in order to locate her, enlists the help of Ivan. Despite his unease, Ivan joins her and embarks on a journey of love, closure and redemption. 

    Aloft appears to be a good story but its story-telling is a disaster. It is a two-hour movie and for the first half, it is still unclear where the story is headed and what is the connection between the two parallel timelines. Director Llosa had withheld so much information, possibly to make a big shocking revelation towards the end. Instead of building drama and tension, this strategy becomes exasperating as events are drab and dull. Instead of inspiring curiosity and anticipation, it is tormenting as the movie demands patience to endure the rest of the film. And instead of celebrating with the characters’ reconciliation in the end, we can only rejoice that the film finally closes in.

    Rich with symbolism, the movie is set in Canadian Midwest. The desolate and frozen landscape creates that mystic and mysterious vibe which synchronizes with the movie’s theme of spiritual uplift. On the contrary, interior settings are quite dark and depressing, maybe reflecting that certain darkness in the subject. The use of falcon in the film may also signify freedom from guilt and pain from wounds of the past which is essentially its main theme. Llosa had used this approach in “The Milk of Sorrow;” however, there is too much allegory this time, and combined with the tired sequencing and deliberate keeping of facts, the film ends up pretentious and desperate.

    Casting brilliant actors does not also help in making the film watchable. Murphy is especially talented and his command to be heard and watched is irresistible. Along with him, Connelly and Laurent are also committed that they participated in extra-marital scenes in the movie. 

    The actors and the landscape are the only good things in Aloft. Though its vagueness projects mystifying lessons on life and love, but if you really go down deeper, the movie is actually shallow.



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