Review by James Lindorf
Beyond the Clouds, the latest film from director Majid Majidi, Namah Pictures, and Zee Studios will be available on April 20th, 2018. After leaving home as a teen, Amir has been working for a local mobster who deals in trafficking of drugs and women. While on the run from the cops, Amir finds his estranged sister Tara, who in a bid to protect her brother, lands in jail. Torn apart by anger and fear years ago, this new tragedy connects the pair to each other and to strangers that have been thrust into their lives.
This 120-minute drama is set and filmed entirely in Mumbai, India, and features at least two regional dialects, as well as English. I would say around 95% of the movie is subtitled for English speaking audiences and the rest is English. I think having to read the subtitles can leave you feeling a little disconnected from the film. The main characters struggle from one difficult moment to the next; moments that are full of emotion and could elicit a lot of sympathies. Unfortunately, their introduction is rushed, and when you add that to the language barrier, I had a hard time connecting to their plight on a deeper level.
Another thing that hindered my connection was the sound design. There were several times the actors seemed unmiced, and all the other audio was in danger of drowning them out. However, it appeared to be a much bigger issue earlier in the film, and I enjoyed the rest of the sound mixing and music in this film. Even more than the sound, I loved the look of this film. It was full of beautiful shots of Mumbai, while also highlighting the poverty of the region without feeling exploitative. People are struggling, but they are working hard. They have their families and approach even the direst situations with dignity.
The real highlight of this film is its two stars, Ishaan Khattar (Amir) and Malavika Mohanan (Tara), as well as the supporting cast. Ishaan must have a background as a dancer because he has several opportunities to display his impressive talent. Both he and Malavika were given roles that run the gamut of emotions. They pepper in a few happy moments to break up the anger, fear, and sadness. Malavika gets fewer happy moments because her character spends most of the movie in jail. What she lacks in happy moments she makes up with silent dread and a masterful 1,000-yard stare.
This movie has a lot to offer and has several beautiful moments, especially between Amir and his new charges, but it left me wanting more. When I went back to my notes, I was shocked to see that it took over 20 minutes before the inciting event lands Tara in jail. Most of the first act is told in a montage and the two leads screaming at each other, which left me feeling lost, because it seemed out of nowhere. This film will find its audience, though, as it does more things well than it does poorly. You can see the skill of the director in the uniformity of the movie. I am left to conclude that he and the rest of the team may have been let down by the script or the editing as the weaker elements.