‘Sky’ Review: A Character Journey with No Direction | TIFF 2015

     September 18, 2015


People make impulsive decisions that change the course of their lives all the time and director Fabienne Berthaud tries to explore that in her latest feature, Sky, but winds up making her main character’s journey haphazard to the point of feeling too disjointed and meaningless.

The movie stars Diane Kruger as Romy, a french woman on vacation with her husband (Gilles Lellouche) in the American desert. It’s clear that their relationship is on the rocks but they try to hold it together until a heavy night of drinking compels Romy to finally leave him once and for all. With no plan whatsoever, she takes off, hitches a ride and winds up in Las Vegas where she meets and falls for a cowboy (Norma Reedus).

The plot description is limited because Berthaud and co-writer Pascal Arnold run with minimal structure and almost no clear trajectory. On the one hand, the lack of framework is refreshing and freeing. Sky truly feels like a slice of life, giving you the opportunity to see what happens when someone steps out into the world with no idea of where she’s going or what she’s doing. As someone who sticks to a fairly rigid schedule, there’s something inspiring about Romy’s gusto, but watching a woman you barely know bop around from place to place for 100 minutes doesn’t make for a particularly compelling feature narrative.

Berthaud’s first major misstep is not focusing on Romy at the very beginning of the film. When it begins, she gives the impression that this is Romy and Richard’s story, not just Romy’s. Richard eventually does do something heinous that very much justifies Romy leaving him behind, but because we’ve experienced most of the story from his perspective up to that point, her decision to take off doesn’t feel as significant as it should have. Plus, it doesn’t help that that decision comes after she makes a string of very foolish ones. Even though Richard is very much in the wrong, Romy’s actions after their fight could have ruined her life forever and Berthaud doesn’t even come close to justifying them.


Image via TIFF

The problems with the first act are glaringly evident throughout the film. Again, Sky is a feature about a woman making major, life-changing decisions, but because we barely get to know her at the start of the film, all of the moves she makes feel arbitrary and eventually become completely detached from what she went through at the beginning of the movie. It’s one thing to make impulsive decisions, but it’s another not to assess the consequences using your life experience. Even if you can get past the fact that Romy randomly befriends a woman dressed as a bunny on the Vegas Strip for no reason, it’s way too much of a stretch to believe that she’d be completely comfortable living in that woman’s cramped home without ever longing for the luxuries of the life she left behind.

Reedus’ character, Diego, could be Daryl Dixon if the zombie apocalypse never happened and he lived in the desert, but there’s still something undeniably charming about his soft spoken, mysterious personality and his chemistry with Kruger that makes you want to see them get together and gives the film some much needed direction and momentum. However, even though you’re rooting for things to work out for them, their situation isn’t half as powerful as it could have been because, like the rest of the film, it’s extremely uneven. One minute they’re hot and heavy and the next, Diego is hesitant to strike up a committed relationship. Berthaud and Arnold eventually reveal a reason for that, but it comes frustratingly late in the game and feels like a plot device.

Berthaud also tries to shove Lena Dunham into the third act of the movie as Billie, Diego’s sister-in-law. Many got a laugh out of her cartoonish behavior and missing tooth during the screening, but ultimately, her scenes add absolutely nothing to Romy and Diego’s story, and it feels as though she was included for shock value and so that they could include her in the promotional material.

There’s definitely something admirable about Berthaud’s free-flowing approach to Romy’s journey and select moments do play well, but ultimately, Sky feels like three stories mashed into one feature with zero definition.    

Grade: C+

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