A Walk In The Clouds - A Wonderland Called Sentiment

In an era when harsh actuality of everyday life propels one to the realm of insanity, to a pharmaceutically induced sleep, or to a dreadful state of existence, it is a pleasure for a fairytale world to engulf an individual. Although for only a brief time of ninety minutes, that ninety minutes is as refreshing as a relaxing soak in a warm tub of water. "A Walk in the Clouds" provides the means of escape by way of a delightful romantic fantasy. At a time when movies seem compelled to be asocial, when it is more effortless to smirk than to sigh, this film refreshingly takes us to a dream world, if only for a time.

Director Alfonso Arau brings sentiment to a story set in post-World War II California. Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) has returned home to a wife he married only one day before shipping out. Having nothing in common, Paul sets out from San Francisco first by train then on a bus. On the train he meets Victoria Aragon (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). After mistaking train tickets, he and she end up on the same bus. He defends her honor by kicking the rear ends of two ruffians. Moreover, in doing so, is kicked off the bus. He finds his damsel in distress, Victoria, her sitting on one of her suitcases and crying in the middle of the road. This is her home, the Napa Valley of California.

The road is picturesque, a rural path with overhanging trees, and the perfect beginning for a storybook romance. She confesses to a pregnancy by her college professor and the shame she will bring upon her family. The solution could not be simpler. Paul will pose as her husband for one night then leave. She will have to be the object of rejection, but rejection by a husband not a professor. I am aware of the fantasy mind needed to accept this idea, but again, in a day of unpleasant and negative "feed-out" from Hollywood, why not?

No sooner do they utter the final planning words than does the sound of shotgun fire sound. Her father, Alberto Aragon (Giancarlo Giannini) meets and greets the new son-in-law with gun in hand. He does not approve of a Gringo, and believe me, he makes it known throughout the film. That is, until the end. Every other member of Victoria?s family accepts Paul especially the patriarch of the family played by Anthony Quinn. This is, without a doubt, one of the most magnificent roles I have ever seen Quinn grace the screen. Throughout "A Walk in the Clouds" he inserts his elderly wisdom and wit masterfully. One of the most outstanding lines is when he tells Paul, who grew up in an orphanage, "You are an orphan no longer."

Reeves does an excellent job with non-verbal communication. The loving gazes between he and Sanchez-Gijon continually reaches an apex just before the kiss. Even after the harvesting of the family?s grape crop, and the ceremonial stomping of the grapes (this is a beautifully done scene of detail and soft light), and at last, a loving kiss, Paul stops before the point of no return. He tells her he is "not free, and I won?t hurt you."

I am a die-hard sentimentalist, and I love the surprising and refreshing details used in an essential point of this wonderland of a story. Paul stands below Victoria?s window and does what seems a bit odd to anyone under thirty years of age: he serenades her with a love song in Spanish. I realize a scene such as this resembles what would belong in a low budget opera. "A Walk in the Clouds," however, is a film that requires a person to give himself or herself over to, and open himself or herself up to. Logic and disbelief do not belong in the thought pattern of the viewer of this charming love story. As a little boy said in a Disney film, "It could happen." It does happen in my wonderland of sentiment.

Upon seeing the cast list, one must dismiss any preconceived ideas or opinions of Keanu Reeves. He is a grown up boy, now. He is not one in "Bill and Ted?s Excellent Adventure." He is not the "save the world from destruction" sort, or a "keep the