TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘Upon Open Sky’

Posted in TIFF 2023 by - September 16, 2023
TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘Upon Open Sky’

In Mariana and Santiago Arriaga’ Upon Open Sky, a girl, Paula (Federica Garcia), walks into a motel room. I’ve been in worse, but she and I have been in better. There’s a reason why she finds herself in this motel room in presumably central Mexico. She and her stepbrothers Salvador and Fernando Jr., (Theo Goldin and Máximo Hollander) are taking a trip. They’re looking for Lucio (Julio Cedillo), the trucker who killed their father in an accident that also leaves Salvador with scars.

Upon Open Sky has a nice score and unassuming visuals, and I call them unassuming because there aren’t any tricks. Adapting a script that’s three decades old, it catches life during the Drug War’s early stages. A trip that may take days takes more because of the police stops along the way. In fairness, they *are* taking this trip to commit a crime. The further they go, the more it seems that they’re entering a cycle of violence and they may not leave.

The fictional world of Upon Open Sky does have some levels within it. But aside from the things I already wrote about, the filmmakers do things that make those messages inaccessible. For one, there’s the step-incest sub plot. The film also lags by the time it gets to its third act and finds Lucio. Maybe the lag was an attempt to give Julio Cedillo more material. But it also feels like both these antiheroes and the filmmakers didn’t know what else to do.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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