Jennifer Connelly brings her brand of gritty-hot to Manitoba.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE PLOT: The deck seems stack against Nana (Jennifer Connelly), a widow struggling to raise two kids in Northern Manitoba. Nana’s youngest is severely ill and in desperation, Nana agrees to see a healer. The visit takes a turn to the unexpected when is discovered she is the one with the powers. The development further strains her relationship with her eldest son, in desperate need of some maternal care.
A second storyline runs in parallel to Nana’s: Ivan (Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later), a falconer with abandonment issues, agrees to participate in a documentary about his craft, unaware the journalist (Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds) has an agenda that doesn’t involve birds of pray. The plotlines intersect in predictable fashion: There are scores to be settled and explanations to be offered. As for forgiveness, the wounds may run too deep for that.
CRITIQUE: Peruvian director Claudia Llosa gained notoriety thanks to The Milk of Sorrow, a magic realism-soaked take on political repression (the two subgenres Latin America is mostly known for). While significant, her transition to English-spoken films is not as radical as the one other Academy Award-nominated foreign directors have experienced (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and Olivier Dahan come to mind).
Aloft is a correct movie, but there is very little to it to make it stick out. The film goes through the motions with the falconry element as only distinctive trait. If nothing else, Aloft is consistent with the universe around it: The cold, harsh Manitoba mise-en-scene provides the story with a weight it doesn’t really have.
For such an emotionally charged film, Aloft is too dour to leave a mark. The blame falls squarely on the script and the direction, as Cillian Murphy and Jennifer Connelly do their darndest to service their characters. Murphy has seldom feel this human, and Connelly is at her best in gritty environments (see Requiem for a Dream, the misery-porn extravaganza Shelter). An interesting let-down, but a let-down nonetheless.
· Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc (Enemy, Rebelle: War Witch) does a superb job capturing the cold, merciless environment. Keep an eye on this guy.
· A passionless affair in a pig farm in the middle of winter? Sex doesn’t get more depressing than that.
· Early Alejandro González-Iñarritu called. He wants his style back.
· The hook-up between Ivan and the journalist. Comes out of nowhere and leads to nothing.
· I find hard to believe anybody on the Prairies would leave a mother and her two kids stranded in the middle of nowhere, particularly during winter season.
RATING (CANADIAN CURVE): ***
Aloft is now playing in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton.