Producer & Director: Leon Chambers
Writer: Simon Lord
Starring: Naomi Morris, Andrew Murton and Philip Jackson

Review

Film festivals attract filmmakers, cinema insiders, the cognoscenti. The Raindance Film Festival’s banner proclaims: “Discover. Be Discovered.” Raindance know their audience. It’s filmies.

Yet, all week I’ve noticed the punters, people who buy a ticket and who seem to have come just to see a movie. I’ve wondered: “Who are these civilians? What interests them?”

Tonight, I discovered my answer. These are cinema lovers. They are the lotharios of the silver screen. They seek to discover some new flickering flame so immediately ravishing, so ineluctably endearing that they can give it their hearts. They want to be among the first to fall in love with a film destined to turn heads everywhere.

We punters got our pounds-worth on Monday. Director-producer Leon Chambers and screenwriter Simon Lord premiered Above the Clouds. We immediately fell in love with its story, its spirit, and its impish star, Naomi Morris.

On her 18th birthday, Charlotte— “My name is Charlie!”— discovers her parents have lied to her about her sire. Charlie then does that which any come-of-age young woman would do. She chucks her job, enlists Oz— a sidewalk sleeper—and sets off an odyssey to meet her dad. Together they drive from Kent to the Isle of Skye, a journey across the length of the UK.

It is perhaps too convenient that Charlie’s parents leave on holiday on the morning of her birthday. Or that they gift her a new car. A bright yellow one. A credit card. Bank of Mom. And a pair of shoes. Ruby red? One willingly dismisses these cloying details as off we go for the ride. It’s clear: We are onboard for an adventure.

Charlie’s need to meet her biological father provides the spine of the story. The Oz subplot gives the movie its heart. Charlie’s perky, if not annoying, curiosity eventually coaxes out the needy secrets that put Oz on the street. Oz does not divulge his demons easily. Charlie never relents. Eventually, everybody wins.

Morris and Murton render the distinctly British banter both fascinating and adorable. Reviewers may wear out the word “quirky” in describing Lord’s dialogue. But it is Morris’ and Murton’s dispatch of the dialogue that makes it sparkle like emeralds. Oops. There I go again, mentioning details that make this quirky tale appear familiar yet fresh.

Above the Clouds is imagistically nuanced, full of discoveries and endearingly funny. Yet, I kept wondering, what makes this an independent film? It presents itself as a clear successor to other off-beat road trip films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways. It is designed for wide distribution. The film’s journey from idea to screen did not sound arduous or fraught, at least not by Raindance standards. The filmmakers know their audience. They clearly know their craft. They never once lose the plot.

Director Chambers re-asserted his spirit-of-independence credentials by revealing that they shot seven of the film’s locations in the director’s kitchen. Those included one scene on an airplane. Fasten your seatbelts. The crew in the cockpit Above the Clouds know how to handle turbulence. Please just bring me a pint. I’m just going to relax and enjoy the views.

Above the Clouds is the film that will define the 2018 Raindance Film Festival in the minds of millions of cinema lovers. After the festival kudos settle, the box office agitation will begin. This film has legs. Naomi Morris, prepare yourself for an onslaught of love letters. Chambers and Lord already appear well prepared to receive a shelf-load of awards.

Next screening:
Wed 3rd Oct 13:00
Tickets: VUE Piccadilly

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About 

Dr. Bennett McClellan has spent his professional career emerged in various aspects of media and entertainment. He spent the first half-dozen years after leaving university writing, directing and producing theatre. After earning his MBA from Harvard Business School, he went into management consulting, focusing on the entertainment industry. He sidelined that professional to earn his MFA in theater, film and television from UCLA. After graduating, he took on executive roles with Hanna-Barbera Productions, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Nickelodeon’s west coast animation studio. He then returned to consulting as a Managing Director for PricewaterhouseCooper’s entertainment practice in Los Angeles. After finishing his PhD in 2010, he shifted to India to help start up a half dozen university programs, including a filmmaking academy, and then migrated to Vietnam.