Aloft (2014) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 112 min.
Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Melanie Laurent, William Shimell, Zen McGrath, Winta McGrath, Oona Chaplin, Ian Tracey, Peter McRobbie
Director: Claudia Llosa
Screenplay: Claudia Llosa
Review published June 18, 2015
Aloft falls under the category of rare films that I highly respect but don't like enough to earn a recommendation. Written and directed by Academy Award nominated Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa, this internationally produced movie contains two story arcs that converge by the end of the movie. Jennifer Connelly stars as Nana, a single mother looking after her two young boys, Ivan and Gully, the latter of which is afflicted with cancer that is likely terminal. No surgeon will take on his case, leaving Nana to seek alternate methods of bringing Gully to health, including traveling into the frozen tundra to meet an enigmatic man named Newman, who has spawned a cult-like following for his reputation as a mystic healer. The second story arc involves a falconer played by Cillian Murphy, who is visited by a woman named Jannia, who begins to ask him a little too many personal questions to his liking. Nevertheless, the questions brought up are things he also is seeking the answer to, so they journey off together to find the answers.
Aloft is a very slow moving and bleak drama that has terrific performances all around, with Connelly and Murphy getting some heart-wrenching moments where they deliver quite powerfully, but the ponderous and meandering story could either have used some extensive shoring up or paring down -- either would have made it less of a slog to sit through. I'm usually very patient when it comes to well-meaning and artistically evident films, especially when the people that are incvolved in its making are giving it their all, but this one just never comes together for me, so I can't imagine how difficult it might be for those less receptive to Llosa's moody and deliberately sketchy storytelling style.
On the plus side, there is an intrinsic beauty to icy North Canadian landscapes and graceful birds of prey, which gives it a unique aura of mysticism that could work well if joined hand-in-hand with some resonant drama to bolster it. I can definitely see how someone might be affected by the film, particularly those who might see life and meaning in a more spiritual sense, especially if they've ever experienced what it may be like to have a child suffering from a disease that has no likely cure. However, for all of its finer elements, Aloft might as well have been called Aloof, as it is one of those dramas that goes for emotional resonance above realism, but never soars despite several moments in which it appears like it might take flight.
©2015 Vince Leo