A tale as old as time, how much can true love transcend? Is it simply an intertwining of attractions or is love something more, something so inherent to our very being that we’ll find our way back to it under even the most dire of circumstances? These are questions posed by Georgian filmmaker Alexandre Koberidze in What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, a film that askes much but answers sparingly little.
Lisa (Oliko Barbakadze), a pharmacist, and Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze), a footballer, cross paths one morning and immediately fall for one another. In an effort to avoid leaving their next meeting up to fate, the pair plan a date for the next evening. Unfortunately for the star crossed lovers, fate had other ideas. A curse levied in that moment would change each of their appearances upon their awakening the next morning.
Koberidze starts with such an electrifying premise that his abandoning of that central narrative for much of the two and a half hour runtime feels extremely frustrating. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? ambles through the streets of Kutaisi, Georgia, examining the bar preferences of dogs and the World Cup rooting interests of residents, almost entirely abandoning the romance that teed off the film.
As if to intentionally further the challenging nature of this film, much of it takes place in muted vignettes where the cast of seemingly charismatic actors converse silently over intense, fantastical score. A common theme, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? undermines its own charms — be it acting, cinematography, plot — at every opportunity. To make matters worse, blunting these elements appears to be a feature not a bug.
It isn’t until well over halfway through Koberidze’s film that the narrator finally begins to hint at the true purpose of the story. Why does it matter? That is the ultimate charge. When the world is being ravaged and animals slaughtered, what difference do the troubles of one couple make? Fair in principle but an infuriating when you’ve asked your audience to invest in this place and these characters for nearly three hours.
For all the faults that What Doe We See When We Look at the Sky? simply cannot overcome, it can certainly tout it’s visual inventiveness. Sequences depicting the sheer joy of a group of children playing soccer or a ball floating down a rolling river, the aesthetics are worthy of a much better film. Still, as the end credits roll, it’s hard not to wish for a deeper examination of the intriguing premise. 5/10
What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is playing in very limited release starting today (11/12/21)