A dramatic film is only successfully dramatic if you care about the characters or the plot or anything in the film at all.
If a young character dies of no fault of their own, you should probably feel even a little bad for them instead of checking your watch to see how much more you have to sit through until you can get coffee.
“Aloft,” written and directed by Claudia Llosa, seemingly has an intense and eye-catching plot. A young single mother abandons her child after a tragic accident and is reunited with him 20 years later. The mother becomes a world-renowned faith healer; the son, who always loved falcons, becomes a falconer.
The problem? There are so many missing points and plot holes littered throughout the film, I didn’t know what was going on until a third of the way through. Once I almost caught up to the plot, something else left me questioning what could possibly be going on – and not in the good, intriguing, mysterious way.
The film starts with the mother and her two sons trekking through a snowy tundra with a group of people. The destination is later revealed to be a faith healer for the younger boy. The older boy carries a falcon on his arm. This is the first time an explanation is needed, and it’s not given. It’s assumed the falcon is the boy’s pet. But why did his mother let him bring the falcon on a crowded truck ride and a hike to find a faith healer to cure his little brother’s tumor? Within a few minutes, the falcon flies into the faith healer’s large hut made up entirely of sticks and destroys the structure when it can’t find its way out. The mother rushes in to get the bird, which sets her up to discover her faith-healing powers.
As it turns out, the boy bringing his falcon on a family excursion sets up the entire plot of the movie. One action can set up an entire movie plot – if the action is logical.
If the audience is going to be invested in a movie, the happenings of the plot need to be believable within the universe of that movie. The characters need an understandable motivation. If a mother is abandoning her child, the audience needs a reason. There’s a few vague possibilities of reasoning in “Aloft,” but there’s no clear train of thought that transitions into the character’s actions. Even as the older son ages, there’s no change in his life perspective. There’s no development. Static characters work great in the background, but not as the protagonists.
As the film ends, the audience is left wondering what happened and “Why do I care?” There’s no real conflict resolution, and it leaves you perplexed and a bit angry. The whole movie is a dreary, dragging experience that leaves you wanting more … because you’re confused and want an explanation.
“Aloft” attempted to answer a useless and unanswerable question, kind of like “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” The world may never know.
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Mélanie Laurent
Director: Claudia Llosa
Running time: 112 minutes
Rating: R for language and some sexuality.
The Lowdown: A mother who abandons her child to pursue faith healing is reunited with him 20 years later.