By Kit Ramsey.
Shot in a loose, improvisational style that makes use of current consumer-grade digital equipment, Fabienne Berthaud’s Sky (2016) is a cheap and cheerful wanderlust and love letter to new beginnings and identities that one can find in new cultures.
Chronicling the tumultuous but never overwhelmingly depressing life of French tourist turned traveller Romy (Diane Kruger), the story consists of one woman’s journey of self-discovery following the dissolution of her holiday (and marriage) with her husband (Gilles Lellouche) along the Mexican/Californian border region.
As previously stated, this film has a distinctly loose quality to it, especially in the narrative. There’s no particular direction or structure that Romy’s life takes following her decision to head out on her own, instead a series of characters and settings play in the background as Romy wanders through.
Her character feels like a ghost, drifting in and out of various lives unseen for the most part. Along the way she finds herself meeting and staying with a handful of supporting cast members, each having some impact on her life and burgeoning new identity, no matter how big or small. On the larger side of impact we meet park ranger Diego (Norman Reedus) whose rough exterior is slowly eroded by Romy. If you think that sounds cliché, it’s because it is.
Sky’s biggest issue is that for all its soul searching and moody ennui, there’s not much originality that can be wrung from it. The locales we see are fairly part and parcel of the genre: I lost count of the amount of red neon-lit roadside bars and flimsy cafe-diners we see in the film. Then Las Vegas shows up in all its glory complete with show girls and Elvis impersonators. There’s even an interlude with Native American culture, where the classic scene unfolds of a clueless outsider shown some sort of hitherto unknown deep insight into life around a camp fire, complete with ceremonial psychoactive drink.
When the film isn’t taking detours into American Road Movie scenes (perhaps it’s meant to resemble the sight seeing holiday of which the film begins?) it’s marvellously supported by a series of excellent performances from the leads. Kruger pulls it out of the bag, having to convey everything from trauma to delirious excitement during her travels. Shout out as well to Lena Dunham who pops up in a small but sweet role as the wife of Diego’s brother. She manages to put on an excellent show of naive innocence despite most of her most famous roles being primarily self aware and neurotic.
The thing that most sticks out about Sky is that it does tell the story that it wants to tell, and does it in a way that feels very attainable from a filmmaking stand point. If nothing else, Sky’s deceptively well crafted construction feels inspiring, almost urging the watcher to get out there and make their own road film with nothing more than a DSLR. The fact that it creates a sense of wanderlust in the viewer is a great success in its own right.
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