Film Review: ‘Beyond the Clouds’ Loses Itself in the Sky

From an Academy Award-nominated director, ‘Beyond the Clouds’ tries to say more than it actually can.

It was nearly impossible to fully understand the plot after watching Beyond the Clouds, partly because so much happens of no consequence to the film as a whole. Director and writer Majid Majidi attempts to craft a story about the ties that bind a family together in the face of tragedy, but in the end, most of the story falls flat. One of the rare films that feels like it is too short, so much happens in Beyond the Clouds that feels insincere and like it was thrown in from a separate film entirely.

Beyond the Clouds follows drug dealer Amir (Ishaan Khattar) and his recently divorced older sister Tara (Malavika Mohanan) as they face tragedy after tragedy, starting with Amir nearly being arrested and culminating in Tara being arrested after fighting back against a man who tried to assault her. From there the film diverges, one section following Tara in prison as she befriends a sick woman and her toddler son, who is in prison with her. The other features Amir as he attempts to blackmail the catatonic attacker of Tara into confessing his own guilt, meeting with the attacker’s two daughters and his mother. These plots wind together in the illusion that they mesh, but instead they instead receive too little attention to build the stories.

Ishaan Khatter in ‘Beyond the Clouds’

Khattar and Mohanan each do very good work as the siblings at the center of the film, and they manage to wring good performances out of some messy writing and constant emotional whiplash. Khattar, in particular, plays both the dramatics and the entertainment of the role to equal measure. Supporting performances waver between good and bad, the three younger actors never hitting the right note. Perhaps the biggest supporting role belongs to the would-be rapist of Tara, leaving actor Goutam Ghose lying in a bed for a stretch of the film.

The movie does have the advantage of some truly beautiful cinematography from Anil Mehta, capturing Mumbai in a perfect mix of gloom and happiness. The cinematography visually keeps to the idea of clouds having silver linings, but the feature itself never fully succeeds at pulling it off. Throwing humor into dire circumstances and making light of some truly terrible events is hard to balance, and Majidi doesn’t hit the right tone. Everything about the movie almost works but never quite gets there, leaving the audience lost as to where to sympathize.

The beauty of the film and the lead performances make for a nice enough watch, but neither the story nor the scope of the film build to their promises. Running two hours exactly, Beyond the Clouds feels like it left an hour of film on the cutting room floor, leaving this to feel poorly paced and confusing at all times. The use of multiple languages also doesn’t help, as switches from Hindi to Tamil to English play less as character-specific and more as a shortcut to get to the message the film plays at of how people need to try to talk.

There are not enough silver linings to make Beyond the Clouds into a comedy and there is too much levity to make it tragic, instead leaving it floating in a weird state of limbo. Majidi tries and fails to craft a wholesome film, instead trapped with a mess.

Beyond the Clouds‘ opens in select theaters across America on April 20th

Malavika Mohanan in ‘Beyond the Clouds’

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