Old age, adoption, cancer, and long-lost family members are staples for scripters seeking tears, and Marcos Carnevale’s “Touch the Sky” obligingly throws them all together into one agreeable but overly lachrymose package. Though it juggles its multiple plotlines with skill and features a couple of standout perfs and several deliciously comic moments, the awareness that the helmer is tinkering with our eye-plumbing never allows the drama to flower. Carnevale’s previous effort, geriatric charmer “Elsa and Fred,” did decent B.O., but “Sky” lacks the distinguishing features that might mean its success is repeated.
Fiftysomething Pedro (Chete Lera), an obnoxious, cynical left-winger, lives with his son Fidel (Raul Arevalo), with whom he has a terrible relationship. Pedro’s best friend is Argentinean Gloria (Betiana Blum), who tolerates his egotism and rages. A former lit teacher, Pedro falls for student Elena (Veronica Echegui), who come to him looking for advice. Blum is a comic thesp of tremendous liveliness and charm, so it’s disappointing that Gloria is subdued by being confined to a bed for much of the duration, following the revelation she has cancer.
Pic’s other storyline, set in Argentina, has orphan Santiago (Facundo Arana), who was brought up by Gloria following his parents’ death in a car crash, marrying Amparo (Montse German) to help her attempt to adopt a child. This section of the pic could be seen by some as morally somewhat dodgy, since we are being asked to identify more with Amparo, the wealthy Westerner, than with the woman whom poverty has forced to give away her child. The two stories edge ever closer to one another, and to it’s inevitably upbeat ending.
Several exchanges have real freshness and humanity, feeling almost improvised — but they are all at the service of the button-pushing plot. Carnevale can tell a story well, but the pic could be shorn of a couple of characters without causing too much damage, while the storyline involving Pedro’s attempts to get into Fidel’s locked bedroom does not justify its presence: The pic is more successful as melodrama than as comedy.
Arevalo, a terrific young thesp, is dramatically stranded in a role far from the main action, struggling to make an impact. Lera, an underused thesp in Spain, energetically explores all the corners of what is easily the pic’s richest role, taking us through a challenging range of moods.
Special mention must be made of vet Argentinean thesp China Zorrilla as Santiago’s grandmother Imperio: Zorrilla can effortlessly blow everyone else away with just a flutter of her eyelashes, and she also gets the best lines.
Lito Vitale’s score is catchy, but so syrupy it makes Liberace sound minimalist. For the record, pic is the first Spanish movie to be shot using Panavision’s Genesis cameras, used on “Apocalypto” and “Superman Returns.”