No one makes a film like Aloft for the fun of it. Peruvian director Claudia Llosa, who scored an Oscar nomination for The Milk of Sorrow, shot it in chilly Manitoba, and the actors have a come-as-you-are look, from Mélanie Laurent’s roots to Cillian Murphy’s gray-flecked beard. There isn’t even a trace of comedy or romance to brighten the corners, just Drama with a capital D.
In telling the tale of a reclusive falconer (Murphy) and the losses in his past, Llosa weaves two timelines together. In one, Ivan (Zen McGrath) lives with his farm-worker mother, Nana (Jennifer Connelly with an unfortunate rat-tail braid), and his terminally ill brother. In the other, which takes place 20 years later, Ivan (now played by Murphy) joins forces with a journalist (Laurent) to track down Nana, who has become a famous healer.
Sadly, none of this is as interesting as it sounds. In Frozen River, Courtney Hunt took similar geographic and working-class ingredients, and constructed a riveting thriller, but Llosa has no interest in thrills. The characters feel like sketches, and the pace never deviates from its steady course. There’s a scene toward the end when Ivan and his falcon share a moment that almost makes everything worth it—almost, but not quite.