Directed by Alfonso Arau
Starring Keanu Reeves, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Anthony Quinn
"A Walk in the Clouds"
Opened: August 11, 1995
"A Walk in the Clouds" tries hard to be a wonderful movie. The gorgeous cinematography, full of golden sunsets and picturesque panoramas, and the emotionally charged soundtrack do their best to present a romantic front. But it's really just a mediocre movie in a very pretty box.
Keanu Reeves is better than most might expect in his first romantic lead, but he never quite sells himself as being in love. He and his leading lady, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon in her first American film, never quite click convincingly like two people in love should.
To tell the truth, the verdict on "A Walk in the Clouds" is going to split right down gender lines. For the most part, women will see past the film's shortcomings and may be truly touched by a few heady love scenes. Men will snicker uncontrollably at Reeves' delivery of his romantic dialogue. "I want you more than anything," he deadpans. "You can't imagine how I want you."
Do not take a date to this movie. The "oh, brother!" factor is way too high.
The story, directed by the brilliant Alfonso Arau ("Like Water For Chocolate"), stars Reeves as a soldier returning from World War II who poses as a pregnant college student's (Sanchez-Gijon) husband to protect her from her traditional Mexican father's wrath. He comes home with her to the family vineyard in Napa -- populated by endearing, albeit cliched, characters (Anthony Quinn is the anecdote-spouting patriarch) -- and the two begin to fall in love. Or so we're supposed to believe.
There are points at which the movie almost becomes the sweeping romance Arau was hoping for. The harvest of the grape crop is a backdrop for an enchanting scene in which father and husband compete to see who can pick faster, and in the grape-stomping dance scene that follows, Reeves and Sanchez-Gijon really do look at each other longingly. Arau does have a knack for scenes of unbridled passion, and for about 20 minutes the audience is thinking "this is a terrific movie." But it doesn't last.
Fans of "Like Water For Chocolate" will recognize the distinctively Mexican look of some scenes, as well as Arau's use of the kitchen as the family place for emotional watershed. Visually it's a stunning piece of work, although some scenes don't advance the story at all and drag on solely because they look good.
In the end, "A Walk in the Clouds" fall flat. The emotion, the love, the audience wants terribly to believe in just isn't there. It's a pretty box, but there's nothing in it.
This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.
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