Friday, July 17, 2015


Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 4:26 PM

In Aloft, Jennifer Connelly plays Nana Kunning, an apparent veterinarian living in the frozen wastes of Northern Canada.

I say “apparent” veterinarian because, like everything else in this trainwreck of a film, what she does for a living is not really clear. There’s a scene about fifteen minutes into the movie where we see her sticking her hand into the vagina of a pig, which is when I formulated my veterinarian hypothesis, but in hindsight, she could just be a farmer. That would be more consistent with the poverty implied when we meet her hitchhiking with her two young sons, Ivan (Zen McGrath) and Gully (Winta McGrath). They are on their way to see Hans (Ian Tracy), a performance artist/faith healer known as The Architect, in the hope that he can cure the unnamed disease that the apparently healthy Gully is said to be dying of. Once at the site of “The Act”, as The Architect’s tree shelter sculpture is called by his acolytes, the pilgrims draw lots to determine who gets to partake in the healing ritual. But young Ivan's pet falcon, who gives the best performance in the film, disrupts the ceremony and is subsequently shot by an angry cultist.

click to enlarge Cillian Murphy being upstaged by a falcon in Aloft.
  • Cillian Murphy being upstaged by a falcon in Aloft.

Then we flash forward twenty years, when Adult Ivan (played now by Cillian Murphy), is visited by a reporter named Jannia Ressmore. Nana, I was eventually able to deduce, has taken up the faith healing mantle of The Architect and now performs her own “Acts”, the next one of which will take place north of the Arctic circle, and Jennia wants Adult Ivan to accompany her to the latest one. The film then alternates between the past and present, although it’s hard to tell which is which at any given time.

When you talk about “indie film”, some people immediately complain about incomprehensible, self-indulgent, pretentious crap. For the most part, they’re wrong. There’s no shortage of worthwhile indies that just require a little more thought to tease out the meaning. Terrance Malik, for example, follows his own vision and executes it beautifully enough that meaning unfolds anew with each viewing. But there’s a difference between pursuing a personal vision and wallowing in your own fetishes, as writer/director Claudia Llosa has done here. She likes long, still closeups of people with pained expressions on their faces, and she delivers so many of those in this monochrome nightmare that they lose all meaning. Dialog is either ominous whispers or babies crying. What plot exists is buried under layers of useless shots, like the close up of Gully idly playing with a keychain that seems to go on forever. It’s all incomprehensible to the point of tedium, and this is coming from a guy who bought the Inherent Vice Blu-Ray. Projects like Aloft are what give indie films a bad name. 

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