Set in a frozen, perhaps dystopian North where the people are as harsh as the weather, “Aloft” is a good-looking misfire. The raptors soar sublimely, but writer-director Claudia Llosa (“The Milk of Sorrow”) delivers neither clarity nor substance as she weaves magic and mystery into a story of tragedy and hardship.
Two stories of loss, pain and faith unfold.
In one, Nana (Jennifer Connelly), accompanied by two young sons, visits the Architect (William Shimell), a reputed healer who performs his services in a structure made of twigs. She hopes he can cure her younger boy, who is dying. The Architect convinces Nana that she, too, has healing powers. Nana abandons her existing world to pursue this calling.
The second story transpires 20 years later, when Nana has become a guru-like artist and healer. Her now-grown older son, Ivan (Cillian Murphy), is a reclusive falconer, long estranged from his mother. A journey into the icy wild with a French journalist (Melanie Laurent), who is searching for Nana, leads to an uneasy reunion.
Flashing back and forth between time periods, Llosa slowly reveals answers to the mysteries surrounding these damaged characters, the biggest being the tragic incident that drove Nana and Ivan apart.
Unfortunately, the material isn’t stirring, meaningful or graspable, despite the initial intrigue Llosa generates and her ability to make bleakness striking.
Focusing too much on the melodrama of the mother-son separation, Llosa neglects to flesh out the characters. Hazy symbolism, mostly involving the impressive falcons, thickens the bog. While Murphy is good with the birds, the capable actors work no miracles with their skimpily written roles.
Deliberate but self-defeating in its vagueness, the film leaves viewers cold.
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Melanie Laurent, William Shimell
Written and directed by: Claudia Llosa
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes