Cloud Atlas: yet what is any good film but a multitude of feels?

I saw Cloud Atlas last Sunday, and I went into the theatre not sure what to expect— I’d heard wonderful and not so wonderful things about it.  All I knew was that some actors played many characters, it was based on a book, and that it had a pretty promising cast.  My advice: keep an open mind and be ready to have your butt start to hurt after 2.5 hours. (from the seat, not anything else…)

So surprisingly enough, the many story lines and characters weren’t all that confusing.  The peak of confusion was really right at the beginning, during the opening clips that featured each not-yet-introduced story.  Once they started to flesh out characters and story lines, it became much clearer.

Furthermore, considering the undertaking of that many intertwining stories (and 3 directors), I was prepared for the film to be lacking in cohesion and focus.  Yet somehow, I suppose because of its themes — reincarnation, connection between people — it flowed and weaved and truly succeeded in not ending up in tangled knots or a mess of stray threads.  It was also fun guessing who played who (Hugo Weaving as the nurse?? Ben Whishaw as Georgette?!)

Now, a review of Cloud Atlas would not be complete without a paragraph on Ben Whishaw and the Frobisher/Sixsmith tragic love story.  Ben Whishaw is incredible.  From the first scene, you can’t help but love Frobisher and then he goes and composes the Cloud Atlas Sextet and writes fantastic letters (narrated in Whishaw’s beautifully unique accent) to Sixsmith and oops you’ve fallen.  But you’ve known from the start that he will die, and you’re hoping it doesn’t really happen.  But tragically and inevitable, it does.  And it’s strange, because they really only had 4 scenes together; the second, being a fantasy, the third, one-sided, and by the fourth, Frobisher was already gone.  But you could feel their love, their passion, their longing, not only to be together again, but for the world to change and to accept them.  That last scene is the absolute worst because Sixsmith/D’Arcy’s reaction to seeing Frobisher dead is so raw and of course you know his pain because you’ve fallen in love with Frobisher too, but there’s also so much you don’t know about their relationship and that just makes it all the more heartbreaking.

I would love to know how they met, how they fell in love, etc.

The one major issue I had with the movie was their representation of Asian characters.  Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, and James D’Arcy (all Caucasian) played Asian characters in the Sonmi-451 story line   I have no issue with that; I think the idea that the “soul” is not limited by race is true and wonderful.  However, they didn’t look like Asian people.  Look at Doona Bae and look at them and there’s a pretty distinct discrepancy.  I have heard theories that they’re not meant to be 100% Asian, that they’ve been mutated or something– I really don’t know.  It was just really jarring, and I couldn’t help but cringe.

Weird make-up and racial representation issues aside, I really loved Jim Sturgess’ performances as Adam Ewing and Hae-Joo Chang.  He’s a great actor and the relationships with Autua and Sonmi-451 respectively were wunderbar.  The soundtrack is also brilliant. Kudos to Tom Tykwer et al.  The Cloud Atlas Sextet is strange and gorgeous and overwhelmingly beautiful and sad.  End Titles music is also a must-listen.

So overall, I would categorize Cloud Atlas as an experience and not simply a film.  Amazing concept, excellent execution, and some brilliant performances.  If you haven’t yet seen it, I highly suggest you do, since I’m definitely going to see it again.  I also plan on reading the book by David Mitchell.

Favourite quote?

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. I believe there is another world waiting for us, a better one. And I’ll be waiting for you there.”

– Robert Frobisher (what a surprise)