Canada, 2014, 112 minutes, Colour.
Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Melanie Laurent, Oona Chaplin, Peter Mc Robbie.
Directed by Claudia Llossa.
Aloft is the work of Peruvian director, Claudia Llossa, who achieved some international and festival fame with her film La Teta Asustada, winner of the golden Golden Bear in Berlin, 2009, and the Academy award nominee for Peru. This time she moves to Canada.
Filmed in English, with settings in Manitoba, it stars Jennifer Connelly. At the opening of the film, she is a mother with two sons, one who is terminally ill. The two boys seem to get on well together. She has night shifts at work and boards, she and her children with her father-in-law.
The screenplay shift ground when the mother takes her two sons to see a healer in the forest, a crowd gathering, taking stones with numbers on as a lottery to get in to see the healer. The older boy, an expert with falcons, has taken the falcon without his mother’s permission and it gets loose and flies into the grove where the healer is operating. The mother hurries in and, by chance, touches the forehead of the boy who needs to be healed – and he recovers. The healer, part charlatan, partly sincere, part alcoholic, tells the woman that she has a gift and that she should use it for healing.
At one moment in her work, the two boys are sitting in the car, the older boy becoming more resentful of his mother and his brother, and drives the car with tragic consequences.
The film moves forward 20 years, focusing on the older boy, still working with the falcons and a renowned expert, married with a child. However, he still seems morose and angry. He is played by Cillian Murphy.
The forward drive of the plot is the arrival of a journalist, Melanie Laurent, who wants to interview the son but also wants to track down the mother who now works in a very remote part of Manitoba. It is winter, they fly to the north, travel by bus but are prevented from going further because of the lake which is iced over. Nevertheless, the journalist perseveres and gets permission to see the mother. And it will be a moment of truth as the mother meets her son for the first time in decades.
The title of the film obviously refers to the falcons but audiences will be trying to apply it to the experience of the mother and the son.
It can certainly be said that the film creates quite a wintry atmosphere, and the isolation of the northern town. But, with the intense performances, audiences will be drawn into this drama of strained relationships, of anger and resentment, of healing and forgiveness.
1. The title, the falcon, human achievement, otherwise earth bound, grounded?
2. The director, her work in Latin American films? Her perspective on Canada? Remote, cold, isolated? The musical score?
3. The locations, in Manitoba, the weather, the snow and ice, the frozen lakes, the isolated towns?
4. Nana, her work, the pig, assisting in the birth? Her relationship with Hans, the sexual encounter? Home in the morning after her shift? Living with Ike, father-in-law, his critical attitude? Waking the boys? The information about the phone call? Hurrying with the boys, the crowd assembling, the lottery and taking the stone?-With the falcon, Nana allowing Ivan to take the falcon? Its flying, crashing into the lattice, Nana entering, touching the boy who needed healing, his recovery, the father shooting the falcon? His later apology?
5. Nana, her life, relationship with Hans, with Ike, Ivan, older, the importance of responsibility for his brother, his brother being unwell, likely to die, Nana taking him to be healed?
6. The Architect, his powers, drinking, his discussions with Nana, his advice about her powers? Her finally agreeing to work with him? The effects, on her boys, Ivan and his resentment? Leaving the boys in the car, Ivan driving, unsteady, the crash, in the ice, the younger brother getting out, drowning, and Ivan’s anger, upset, with his mother and thrusting things at her and leaving? Saying that his brother was going to die anyway?
7. The older Ivan, his wife and child, yet his bitterness? Expert on falcons?
8. The journalist, her arrival, the arrangement of the interview, his having forgotten, his wife’s apologies? The clash with the journalist, the sexual encounter, permission? Persuading him to go to see Nana, wanting personal healing, wanting the interview, meeting between son and mother?
9. The travel, the plane, the bus, the snow and the ice on the lake, the journey stopped, the decision to walk, fear on the ice, arrival?
10. The hotels, the interrogation, the papers, Nana’s agent? The journalist and her purpose?
11. Getting the permit, going to see Nana, wanting healing? Nana and her achievement in 20 years, art, healing? Insisting on the sense of mission and trying to heal everyone? Talking with the journalist? Wanting to stop?
12. Alone with Ivan, his listening, Nana knowing who he was, his hatred of his mother, her love, the possibilities for reconciliation and healing?
13. Nana’s life and its meaning?
14. The symbol of the falcon, and its going aloft?