Aloft

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Aloft Movie Poster Image
Drama about faith, family is atmospheric but uneven.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 112 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A mother's love shouldn't be conditional, and parents shouldn't leave their children, even when they're grieving. The effects of being abandoned last a lifetime. Sick people and those who love them can be easily swayed to believe in something bigger than themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No truly positive role models. Nana is a wonderful healer, mentor, and guide to her followers and believers, but she abandons her son, whom she blames for her other son's death.

Violence

A couple of disturbing traumatic events: A man shoots young Ivan's falcon, and later young Ivan and his brother are in a car accident that kills one of them. Viewers sensitive to stories about parental abandonment will be upset by the seemingly casual and definitive way in which Ivan's grieving mother leaves him -- for good.

Sex

Fairly explicit sex scene between a married couple: The woman's breasts are occasionally visible, and there's moaning, kissing, and thrusting. A man alludes that a woman should have sex with him, but they don't do it.

Language

Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink in a couple of scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Aloft is an intense drama about a mother who abandons her child after a family catastrophe and then becomes a reclusive healer. There's one fairly explicit sex scene (breasts visible, plus noises and movements), strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), and disturbing scenes of violence/trauma (a boy's beloved falcon is shot in cold blood; a boy accidentally sparks events that end with his brother's death; a mother leaves her child). It's intense, but this drama, which stars Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy as the estranged mother and her adult son, is generally appropriate for older teens who can handle the mature content and complicated family dynamics, upsetting scenes, and non-linear plot.

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What's the story?

ALOFT is two stories in two timelines woven into one: The flashbacks follow Nana (Jennifer Connelly) and her two young sons -- older falconer Ivan and younger, sickly Gully -- and the contemporary story follows documentarian Ressmore (Melanie Laurent) as she attempts to find Nana through Ivan, now an adult and estranged from Nana. In the past storyline, Nana and the boys hitch a ride to a mysteriously remote, snowy locale. Near a beautiful structure of twigs and branches, Nana joins a group waiting for a healer named The Architect to randomly select one person to heal, but Ivan's falcon destroys the structure, disrupting the healing process and angering the many desperate people waiting for their turn. As it turns out, Nana has the magic touch, too, so The Architect finds her and asks her to join him as a healer. But as they perform their first healing, something horrible happens to the boys, ruining Ivan and Nana's bond forever. In the present, adult Ivan (Cillian Murphy) -- who's still a falconer -- must decide whether to help Ressmore find the mother who abandoned him.

Is it any good?

Peruvian writer-director Claudia Llosa's atmospheric drama is the sort of heavy, stylized film an audience might appreciate for its cinematography and talented cast but still not truly enjoy. The plot isn't just slow-moving but also filled with holes that are never quite resolved. Much more interesting in its flashbacks than in the contemporary story, Aloft is visually arresting but doesn't have nearly as much to say as  Llosa must have intended. Characters make decisions that are difficult to believe, and the reason behind Nana's abandonment of Ivan is so tragic and disturbing that it's borderline manipulative.

Murphy plays Ivan as a husband and father who only seems to feel anything for his beloved falcons, and Laurent's Ressmore is curiously mysterious. There's not much that will invest mainstream moviegoers in the story beyond figuring out what caused Nana and Ivan to live such separate lives, and by the time that's revealed, it's wrapped in platitudes about letting go of pain, believing, and what it means to be healed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence and trauma in Aloft. During the course of a story, what makes traumatic deaths more impactful than expected ones?

  • What are the movie's messages about faith and healing? Do you believe The Architect and Nana had powers?

  • How do nature and weather impact the movie? Why do you think the healing must take place outdoors? What purpose do Ivan's falcons serve in the story?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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