Director: John Duigan | 117 minutes | drama, war, romance | Actors: Charlize Theron, Penélope Cruz, Stuart Townsend, Thomas Kretschmann, Steven Berkoff, David La Haye, Karine Vanasse, Gabriel Hogan, Peter Cockett, Élizabeth Chouvalidzé, Jolyane Langlois, Éloïsa Laflamme-Cervantes
After her role in “Monster” (2003), Charlize Theron looks a lot better in “Head in the Clouds”. And for the enthusiasts; she also takes off her clothes!
Gilda (Charlize Theron) is not the type of girl who cares about rules or customs. She wants to have fun! It is in the early 1930s when she meets Guy (Stuart Townsend). A shy Irish student at Cambridge University who loves her from their first meeting. And she secretly loves him too. However, her hedonistic lifestyle doesn’t allow her to commit to anyone. A relationship does not come about and when her mother dies she leaves England to eventually end up in Paris after a few years, where she becomes a successful photographer. She invites Guy – now a teacher – to come over and he doesn’t have to think about it for a second. Together with Mia (Penélope Cruz), a Spanish nursing student and fashion model, Guy and Gilda even live under one roof for a while and sparks fly from time to time. Until the moment that Guy and Mia feel called to fight in Spain against the advancing fascism. Gilda feels abandoned by the only people she truly loves and refuses to read and answer their letters. When the Second World War has started for several years, Gilda and Guy meet again in Paris. Then it becomes clear once again how far apart the ideals of both are. Or not?
Nothing to the detriment of Penélope Cruz, but what her role has for added value for the story is not entirely clear. Just as there are more pieces in it that lack that added value. Nevertheless, she does a good job as the endearing, crippled Mia. Charlize Theron really outclasses everyone. Every scene in which she is present brings extra class, glamor and sensuality. “Head in the Clouds” would be a lot weaker without her. Something that unfortunately cannot be said of Stuart Townsend. A typical case of miscast. A strong, modern woman like Gilda can’t possibly get a soft spot for such a wimp! His role may ask for it a bit, but when he enters the war situation it is really beyond imagination.
The scenes that were supposedly filmed in the streets of Paris are laughable… It is not as if Michael Jackson recorded his Billie Jean, but it doesn’t matter much. Dramatic decor quality and a great contrast to the real “outdoor shots”, such as in Cambridge and Spain. The film work is a bit chaotic at times anyway, so you can get lost in the beginning.
Then why is the movie worth it, other than the fact that Theron is so great? For hopeless romantics, it is certainly a story that you can fully immerse yourself in. The film offers an atmospheric, glossy look at Western Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and also shows the dilemma many young people faced at the time: fighting for your ideals or choosing personal happiness? “Head in the Clouds” has become an entertaining melodrama. Unfortunately, with more options than are currently used.