Movie Review: “Aloft” — In Theatres Now: Catch It While You Can

For the beast of the field, the pain of childbirth ends at birth.  For the human mother, birth is only the beginning of a pain that has no end.  Claudia Llosa’s third feature is perhaps the most uncompromising tale of motherhood since Medea.  Jennifer Connelly, whose last performance I favored was the insect magnet of Dario Argento’s “Phenomenon,” she comes through with  a brave performance as Nana Kunning, a mother who abandons her elder son to pursue a career as a healer after her incurably sick younger son drowns in a frozen lake.  I say brave because Connelly  is heedless of her limitations as an actress and, in over-reaching herself, winds up in an emotional wind tunnel that sucks her dry.

Every male character introduced in the opening scenes is a sadistic brute, and Nana is their whipping girl. She goes through life with her visor down, deflecting the pointed humiliations with  lofty deference. r Her husband and father-in-law blame her for the illness of her child, and she is long past putting up an argument.  Her healthy son hates her for the favoritism she shows his brother, and  feels himself a non-entity in her eyes. The result of this is that everything he does brings disaster.

Llosa is the niece of Peru’s most celebrated author, Mario Vargas Llosa.  Her first film, “madeinusa,” was an arthouse favorite,  and her second, “The Milk of Sorrow,” received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film.  Both were excellent studies of the superstitions of Andean people, and were unfairly criticized in Peru for what some hypocrites perceived as racist characterizations of Peru’s indigenous culture.  The truth is that both Llosa and her uncle are two of the few Peruvian intellectuals who give a damn about the Andeans.

The writer/director finds a  challenging  alternative to the topography of the Andes in Manitoba’s  frozen lakes.  With the help of Canadian cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc, she creates an environment as unforgiving as her characters.  Bolduc is not so effective with his foregrounds.  His camera swoops so closely to the actors that it’s a wonder it doesn’t plow their faces.

Towards the end,  “Aloft” ascends into the negligible ether of new age philosophizing, as Nana delivers an iffy monologue on how she came to terms with the death of her son.  There is wisdom here, but it is the frightening wisdom of crones. We leave the shivery fields of ice with the disheartening suspicion that women, especially mothers, are every bit as monstrous as the sons, husbands, fathers-in law, and impetuous strangers who make a misery of their lives.

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3 thoughts on “Movie Review: “Aloft” — In Theatres Now: Catch It While You Can

  1. I have often wondered in the name of feminism when women assert they survived in a man’s world if they have not instead sunk down to their level. Education is the true empowerment. Anyway, nice review, Bill. Curious the Andean replacement is Manitoba. Hmmm. I will watch this as soon as it becomes available. I always thought Jennifer Connolly was over-rated. Maybe after Phenomenon and Aloft she will rise in my estimation.

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  2. Manitoba is the opposite of the Andes, but they are both difficult environments with strong native populations. I dont think you would care much for Phenomenon, it’s pretty gross, but do see Aloft. Connelly was a promising actress in her youth, but failed to cut it s an adult, and she over-compensated in a desperate attempt to be taken seriously, and she fooled a lot of people. I really cant stand her, but Llosa manipulated her faults into a strange and affecting performance. In her first two films, Llosa used a non-actress for her lead. she was wonderful in both parts. That actress was recently molested on Lima’s public transportation, and the judge threw her case out of court. Typical peruvian corruption and injustice.

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