×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Beyond the Clouds’

Iran's Majid Majidi takes an unexpected leaf from the Bollywood book in his first Indian-set feature, an unsubtle but impassioned Mumbai melodrama.

Director:
Majid Majidi
With:
Ishaan Khattar, Malavika Mohanan, Goutam Ghose

2 hours 0 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3224288/

Majid Majidi is a long way from home in “Beyond the Clouds,” a socially conscious underworld melodrama that sees the veteran Iranian humanist taking to the slums of Mumbai with a hint of Bollywood swagger. It’s a commendable departure, even if you can sense the helmer struggling to get the lay of the land at certain intersections in this heartfelt tale of an impoverished brother and sister seeking roundabout justice when she’s imprisoned for attempted murder.

What this brightly painted film lacks in streetwise authenticity, however, is balanced by its righteous strength of feeling: it’s finally the Tehran-based filmmaker’s keen compassion for society’s neglected underclasses that survives the trip across Asia intact. Festival play, following first showings in London and Busan, should run far and wide; the cross-cultural perspective and straight-ahead storytelling style of “Beyond the Clouds” broaden its distribution prospects. (Though that floaty, not-especially-evocative title risks confusion with the 1995 Antonioni-Wenders collaboration of the same name, Majidi’s film isn’t playing in quite the same arthouse ballpark.)

Majidi overreached with his last feature, 2015’s long, lavishly mounted but lead-footed religious epic “Muhammad: The Messenger of God,” which got minimal exposure despite its ambitious remit. Notwithstanding the change of scenery, “Beyond the Clouds” returns him to the more intimate, earthly scale and subject matter that served him well in such films as “Baran” and the Oscar-nominated “Children of Heaven.” Majidi has long traded in a blend of social realism and outright sentimentality, and he’s back to that formula here, even if the infusion of stray elements from popular Indian cinema — including one short, out-of-the-blue dance number — jumbles the tone a bit.

One feature retained from “Muhammad” in Majidi’s hard career reset, meanwhile, is his collaboration with Oscar-winning Indian composer A.R. Rahman, whose maximalist score practically demands its own directorial credit. Its clutter of syrupy, emotionally leading motifs isn’t exactly congruous with the film’s attempts at rough-edged human tragedy, though you can hardly fail to hear echoes of “Slumdog Millionaire” in its more high-energy passages — notably in an antsy opening sequence of urban scene-setting, as young protagonist Amir (newcomer Ishaan Khattar) is introduced in the process of a drug deal, lithely weaving and hitching and jay-running his way across a traffic-clogged Mumbai as he makes multiple drops and pickups. An ebullient interlude of car-top dancing is disrupted by a police bust and ensuing chase, before he finally finds shelter in the laundry where his estranged older sister Tara (Malavika Monahan) works.

Nothing else in “Beyond the Clouds” matches this sequence for sustained brio and momentum, though Majidi and leading Bollywood cinematographer Anil Mehta (“Lagaan”) go on to throw a striking few expressionist flourishes into the mix, with cinematic shadow-play a recurring device. In one such silhouetted scene, set amid drying, billowing bedsheets, Tara’s superior Akshi (Goutam Ghose) attempts to rape her, believing her indebted to him after he helps cover for Amir. With a spatter of scarlet across ivory cotton, she strikes his head with a stone in self-defense; he narrowly survives and is hospitalized, while she’s carted off without delay to a destitute women’s prison.

With Tara facing life behind bars unless Akshi himself admits fault, it’s left to Amir to draw the truth out of the now speech-impaired rapist. The drug dealer’s own redemptive arc, meanwhile, comes with acts of initially reluctant charity to Akshi’s now-homeless family. The future-bearing role of children, as in much of the director’s work, is heavily emphasized here; Tara likewise befriends the beaming-against-the-odds daughter of a fellow inmate. Majidi and co-writer Mehran Kashadi present all their characters as jointly victimized by systemic poverty in India, though the subjugation of women under these conditions comes in for particular censure.

Majidi’s young leads lack finesse, but not emotive conviction, which suits the film’s purposes just fine; egged along by that score, it’s mostly all-caps protest cinema, getting its worthwhile message unambiguously across. There are more clashing tones than we’ve come to expect here from the director, who sometimes tries out floridly romanticism, poetic realism and tough genre posing in the space of a single scene — a change is as good as a rest, goes the old proverb, but relocating to India has made Majidi a more restless filmmaker than we might ever have guessed.

Film Review: 'Beyond the Clouds'

Reviewed online, London, Oct. 11, 2017. (In London Film Festival — competing; Busan Film Festival — Window On Asian Cinema.)

Production: (India) A Zee Studios International, Namah Pictures production. (International sales: Zee Studios International, Sydney.) Producers: Shareen Mantri Kedia, Kishor Arora.

Director: Majid Majidi. Screenplay: Majidi, Mehran Kashani. Camera (color): Anil Mehta. Editor: Hassan Hassandoost. Music: A.R. Rahman.

With: Ishaan Khattar, Malavika Mohanan, Goutam Ghose, Dhwani Rajesh, G.V. Sharada, Amruta Santosh Thakur, Shivam Pujar.

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Solstice Studios Boards Thriller 'Unhinged' From 'Disturbia' Writer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Solstice Studios has acquired “Unhinged,” a psychological thriller from “Disturbia” screenwriter Carl Ellsworth and “Warrior” producer Lisa Ellzey. The studio is currently out to directors. The script revolves around an extreme case of “road rage.” It’s the story of a mother whose decision to hit her horn upsets the wrong guy and leads to some [...]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    'Bill & Ted 3' Sets 2020 Summer Release Date

    Excellent! “Bill & Ted 3” has a release date. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter will return to the big screen in “Bill & Ted Face the Music” on Aug. 21, 2020. The duo made the announcement in a short video shot at the Hollywood Bowl, where they’ll “never play.” Production began on Wednesday. More Reviews [...]

  • Elizabeth Debicki

    Elizabeth Debicki Joins Christopher Nolan's Next Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson are on board to co-star with John David Washington in Christopher Nolan’s next movie, Variety has learned. Nolan recently finished the script for the currently untitled film and Warner Bros. quickly dated it for July 17, 2020 — a slot the studio often reserves for the director, most recently with “Dunkirk.” [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Why 'Missing Link's' Title Character Was One of Laika's Biggest Challenges

    Stop-motion studio Laika pushes design boundaries in every film it makes, and the lead character in “Missing Link” is no exception. “It became pretty apparent that [the character] Link was going to be the cornerstone,” says director and writer Chris Butler. “I did this rough drawing many years ago, and it was basically like a [...]

  • null

    In Its Ninth Year, Arte Careyes Film Festival Promotes Rising Latin American Talent

    Careyes, Mexico, a strip of bohemian, palm tree-laden paradise perched along a remote strip of the Pacific coast, is the sort of place creative types dream about, with balmy ocean breezes, bright blue skies and a network of surrounding villages lined with cobblestone walkways and the sound of tropical birds chirping overhead. Arte Careyes, a [...]

  • Regina KingNational Board of Review Awards

    National Board of Review Awards Sets 2020 Date

    The National Board of Review’s 2020 film awards gala will take place on Jan. 8, 2020. NBR also announced that MSNBC’s Willie Geist will return as host for his sixth consecutive year. The gala will be held at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York. More Reviews TV Review: 'Hanna' SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You [...]

  • Jeff Wadlow'Truth or Dare' film premiere,

    'Danger Girl' Movie Draws 'Truth or Dare' Director Jeff Wadlow

    “Truth or Dare” director Jeff Wadlow has come on board to helm “Danger Girl,” an action-adventure for Constantin Film. Wadlow, who is in production on Sony’s “Fantasy Island” movie, will also perform rewrites on the script. Umair Aleem wrote the initial drafts, based on the female-team comic book series “Danger Girl,” created by J. Scott [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content