In “Upon Open Sky,” the Arriaga family, led by renowned screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, delves into the complexities of morality and retribution in a powerful coming-of-age road trip drama. The film marks the directorial debut of Guillermo Arriaga’s children, Mariana and Santiago Arriaga, and showcases their ability to craft a compelling narrative laden with moral ambiguity.
Set against the backdrop of early 1990s Mexico, “Upon Open Sky” opens on a desolate desert highway where twelve-year-old Salvador, portrayed by Theo Goldin,Guillermo Arriaga embarks on a hunting trip with his father, played by Manolo Cardona. Their close and affectionate relationship is abruptly shattered when a violent collision with a semi-truck alters their lives forever. Salvador survives, but his father does not.
Two years later, back in their Mexico City home, Salvador’s older brother Fernando, portrayed by Máximo Hollander, harbors a deep-seated desire for revenge against the truck driver responsible for their father’s death. To his surprise, their stepsister Paula, portrayed by Federica García, invites herself and her boyfriend to join the journey.
The film navigates the complexities of right and wrong, as Paula’s simplistic views, shaped by soap operas, clash with the harsh realities of life. The trio’s impulsive road trip unfolds against the backdrop of the ’90s, a time when such adventures were less fraught with danger. Guillermo Arriaga infuses the dialogue with period-specific slang, adding authenticity to the characters‘ interactions.
The central trio’s performances are nothing short of captivating, with youthful rage and occasional sparks of innocence permeating their characters. Their evolving dynamics, from initial animosity to unwavering loyalty, are portrayed convincingly with each passing kilometer of their journey. Ludovico Einaudi’s evocative score adds depth to the film, evoking both longing and hopefulness.
“Upon Open Sky” doesn’t follow a linear structure but effectively places each sibling on a path of personal growth. Salvador grapples with a conflicted sexual awakening, while Fernando sheds his stoic demeanor to embrace warmth. Paula, sheltered from life’s complexities, undergoes a transformative experience that challenges her understanding of human behavior.
The performances of the young cast shine throughout the film, with Federica García delivering a particularly powerful portrayal. Her character, Paula, experiences a profound transformation that confronts her with the intricacies of human nature.
Metaphors, such as the symbolism of dead animals on the roadside, serve as poignant reminders of the boys’ connection to nature, particularly hunting. The film explores themes of responsibility and accountability, as the teens face the consequences of their actions after an accidental collision with goats.
As the story unfolds and the trio seeks revenge against the man responsible for their father’s death, the film delves into the complexities of vengeance and forgiveness. The pursuit of justice is not straightforward, and the characters grapple with the implications of their actions.
Julio Cesar Cedillo’s portrayal of the man who altered their lives adds a raw and cathartic dimension to the film’s emotional depth. “Upon Open Sky” is a testament to the Arriaga family’s storytelling prowess, capturing the essence of moral ambivalence without offering easy answers.
In “Upon Open Sky,” the open road becomes a canvas for exploring the depths of human morality, making it a gripping and thought-provoking cinematic experience.