THREE STARS – Searching, Thoughtful

The roots from which a family grows will determine its fruit.

        A family rooted in tradition produces a fruit of comfortable customs.

        A family rooted in commitment bears a harvest of fulfilled promises.

        A family rooted in love, nourishes one another with the fruit of belonging.

        This truth, both literally and spiritually is the theme of the film A WALK IN THE CLOUDS.

        Set in the days following World War II, the center figure is an exotic daughter of an established family named Victoria Aragon (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon).

        The Aragon family can trace their lineage back 400 years.   The symbol of that deep root is the development of a special grape vine which has been passed from generation to generation.

        This vine symbolizes not only their vocation as vintners, but the root onto which each new generation of the family grows.

        But with shifting cultural forces, the agrarian connection of the family is being threatened by the social effects of conflicting values.

        The daughter, defying her father’s traditional view that a woman’s place is in the home, has gone away to school.

        In the process of becoming educated she becomes exposed to values that she knows clearly violate those of her family.

        Rather than waiting for marriage she has an affair with a professor and becomes pregnant.

        When she experiences the professor’s values of not wanting to be “tied down” because he is a “free spirit,” she returns to her family in fear and disgrace.

        But due to her father’s controlling anger, she does not have the courage to face the conflict openly.   She seems to truly believe her father would kill her.

        When she describes her problem to a young and searching soldier (Keanu Reeves), he offers to help her deceive her family by posing as her husband for a day, and then deserting her.

        They both seem to be more comfortable with her marrying someone without the family ever knowing and then being deserted by him, than with her having to explain she had an affair with a professor and became pregnant by him.

        This solution raises interesting questions about her values.

        Does she really believe that lying and deceiving her family is more noble, wise and moral than admitting her sin?

        What makes sexual immorality so shameful that she feels compelled to cover it up with an elaborate deception?

        The problem with the deception is that not only was the family only partially deceived, sensing something was wrong but not quite knowing what it was, but both Victoria and  Paul (Keanu Reeves) deceive themselves.

        They cannot go through with the plan.  They not only fall in love and don’t want to separate, but have the additional guilt of having lied to the family.

        In a central scene of the film, the grandfather of the family, Don Pedro (Anthony Quinn) explains to Paul that though he was raised an orphan and never had a family, he is now a part of theirs.

        But he is not.  It is all a deception.   The greatest longing of his life, to have a family, is now a mockery.

        Although the ending of the film is contrived and melodramatic, the message of this film presents a clear picture of the necessary root of a healthy family.

        In a healthy family the truth must be spoken, and it must be spoken in love.

        The daughter doesn’t speak the truth and sets out a course of action that threatens the very existence of the family.

        The father speaks the truth, but not in love.  Hiding behind his anger, he seems incapable of expressing his love until driven to it by tragedy.

        And it is only as Paul is truthful with himself, Victoria, his war bride and the entire family, that he becomes capable of being a part of the family.

        The root of a family will determine its fruit.  If that root is based on the moral values and truthfulness that transcends shifting culture, then generations will grow in the stable care of a family.