A Chocolate Box Movie
After returning from war to find the wife he hurriedly married wanting different things to him, Paul (Keanu Reeves - Speed) heads off to Sacramento with a box of chocolates as he works out what he will do next. But along the way he meets Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon - The Machinist) who is heading back to her parents vineyard where she fears that she will have dishonoured her family because she is unmarried and pregnant. Trying to help out Paul suggests he poses as her husband and then leaves her there as not to bring shame. But things become complicated as they fall in love whilst trying to keep up the pretence.
For around the first hour "A Walk in the Clouds" works, from the way director Alfonso Arau captures the surrounding scenery through to the storyline even if it is a little too obvious. I say obvious because from the first time Paul and Victoria meet in a meet cute on the bus you know where the movie will lead with them falling in love with the shadow of Paul's own ill advised marriage hanging heavy over them. But in a way it doesn't matter that "A Walk in the Clouds" is obvious because it's worked well, charming you with the simplicity of them falling in love whilst Victoria's traditional father is opposed to their relationship. You even know that their own fake marriage will eventually unwind to reveal the truth, it's how these movies always go. But it's beautifully done making you believe in the romance of it all that Paul being a man of honour would help the lovely stranger and that they could hide the truth from her family.
Even all the humour of this first hour acts as a lovely embellishment such as Victoria's father, Alberto's cantankerous nature towards Paul and that Victoria's grandfather, Don Pedro, enjoys dipping into the box of chocolates which Paul has with him. It's gentle and amusing delivering a light feel to "A Walk in the Clouds" even though it's by no means a full on romantic comedy. Even where Arau starts to over cook things with the rivalry scene whilst picking grapes and the following grape dance scene, which to be frank feels like it should be in a musical and not in what is purely a romantic drama, doesn't feel terribly wrong.
But then all this charming build up, the beautiful scenic shots, the gentle and obvious romance and traditional angst is spoiled by delivering an ending which is so sugary sweet that "A Walk in the Clouds" turns corny. Arau's deft touch is lost as slow motion posturing of the final shots makes it all too much to take, all too tacky and unbelievable. All I can think of is that he was trying to make the obvious ending all the more romantically epic but in doing so loses all that was charming about "A Walk in the Clouds" by going over the top.
The acting in "A Walk in the Clouds" mirrors this as during the first hour the performances from everyone; be it Keanu Reeves or Giancarlo Giannini works. But it is almost like a switch was flicked at some point and pretty much everyone suddenly tried to up their game but in doing so making their characters feel forced especially when they then get some terrible dialogue to contend with.
What this all boils down to is that "A Walk in the Clouds" is many things; it is an incredibly beautiful movie with a captivating look. But it is also a pretty obvious movie with the whole romantic storyline following an obvious formula. And worst of all it is a movie spoiled by a forced ending where everyone for some reason goes over the top.