Aloft

Set in the Arctic, Claudia Llosa’s film seems keen on remoteness, lack of warmth, and perpetual dusk. Jennifer Connelly plays a pig farmer and single mother of two boys: the older an aspiring falconer, the younger a stoic sufferer of serious illness. After a series of unfortunate episodes involving shamanic land art, one of the boys grows up to be played with anger and weariness by Cillian Murphy, who accompanies a journalist played by Mélanie Laurent on a trek to put some pressing questions to his mother. This confrontation allows a shining moment for Murphy, who seems partly motivated by the infuriating futility of trying to extract some nuance from Connelly’s binary all-or-nothing acting. Not that she’s wrongly cast, necessarily, as this is one of those movies with a deep aversion to telling you anything directly, except that tragedy has befallen its characters — which, within the established context of reticence, just winds up seeming like a big lump of bathos. Frequent closeups imply intimacy at first, but eventually these, like Llosa’s willful narrative ellipses, serve only to mask an apparent scarcity of resources. Aloft may have arisen from some unique personal mythology of maternalism, but it’s brought down by abridgment, freezing out the feeling of whatever tragic pietà its maker may intend.