When we meet Ben Grady (Grant Rosenmeyer), he tin hardly assistance himself retired of nan surviving room chair. By nan extremity of this lo-fi indie drama, he’s soaring among nan clouds for illustration immoderate benignant of schlubby superhero — aliases 1 of those kids from “Chronicle” — having mastered what “The Secret Art of Human Flight” calls … well, you heard nan title. Maybe not “mastered” exactly, but Ben’s yet getting nan bent of it, and that’s exhilarating, since flying couldn’t beryllium farther from nan authorities we recovered him successful earlier, wallowing successful melancholy aft nan unexpected decease of his woman Sarah (Reina Hardesty).
As presented by head H.P. Mendoza, Ben and Sarah were practically nan cutest mates you could imagine. They published children’s books together and made video diaries for their followers connected TikTok, which Ben insisted they move into a benignant of security argumentation truthful that each spouse would person thing to watch aft nan different 1 passed away. Sarah played along, to a point, though neither statement was prepared for her to dice each of a abrupt astatine property 31. Now Ben is near pinch his grief, a difficult thrust afloat of videos and not overmuch thought really to move connected successful his life … until he decides that school himself to alert will beryllium his way to healing.
That’s wherever Jesse Orenshein’s somewhat eccentric book comes in. He’s written nan benignant of movie you tin ideate Michel Gondry wanting to direct, and there’s a definite alleviation successful knowing that Mendoza (the queer Filipino filmmaker who co-wrote nan adorbs “Colma: The Musical”) holds nan reins instead. That intends it can’t veer excessively acold into twee-town, though it does travel adjacent astatine times, arsenic erstwhile Ben paints his room entity bluish and hangs foam clouds from nan walls and ceiling.
At nan opening of nan film, however, he’s still heavy successful depression. Neither his sister (Lucy DeVito) nor her hubby (Nican Robinson) tin get done to him. A constabulary detective (Rosa Arredondo) insinuates that Ben whitethorn beryllium a fishy successful Sarah’s death, which doesn’t thief 1 bit. Mendoza observes Ben sitting connected nan toilet, looking for illustration world’s saddest hipster, erstwhile he stumbles crossed a video online of a man stepping disconnected a cliff, only to spell shooting up successful nan air. Ben is intrigued.
Around nan aforesaid time, he meets a bully female named Wendy (Maggie Grace, for illustration helium successful this dense ballon) who’s sewage condolences issues arsenic well. She advises him to “find thing and spot it through.” Flashbacks delivered via Ben’s home-video postulation uncover that being joined to Sarah wasn’t needfully arsenic perfect arsenic nan movie first led america to believe. The mediocre feline has a problem pinch endings, arsenic taped arguments pinch Sarah punctual (she was twinkling and spontaneous, whereas he had a inclination to punch holes successful her ideas). Ergo, Ben decides to make flying his thing.
He goes digging into nan darker corners of nan web to find nan dude he saw successful that video, past orders his (not inexpensive) guide. The book arrives, and Ben starts to travel nan steps, hauling each of his furnishings retired onto a heap successful nan beforehand gait successful 1 large purge, shaving disconnected his (not inconsiderable) assemblage hairsbreadth and sleeping connected nan roof. As Ben prepares his mind for flight, a benignant of guru named Mealworm (Paul Raci, looking for illustration a less-stable type of his Oscar-nominated “Sound of Metal” character) appears. Ben spots his (not inconspicuous) Winnebago parked down nan thoroughfare and invites this weirdo inside.
It’s astir present that “The Secret Art of Human Flight” runs a very existent consequence of short-circuiting nether its ain quirkiness, à la “Strawberry Mansion” aliases “Swiss Army Man” — though Mendoza (who finds nan correct reside by composing nan people himself) comes to nan task from a spot of affectional sincerity. He keeps nan movie grounded successful Ben’s unresolved feelings of loss, and though nan kooky enigma of really nan full quality formation point will play retired hovers complete nan movie, nan existent motor remains Ben’s individual recovery.
In that way, nan closest exemplary could good beryllium Pixar’s “Up,” which likewise recovered a widower letting spell of terra firma arsenic a measurement of honoring his precocious wife’s wishes. Mendoza’s movie is overmuch shaggier each around, but it’s sewage that gooey Velveeta-and-cornball halfway that Pixar and precious fewer others negociate to propulsion off. The movie itself is presented successful a astir peculiar format, its round-cornered 4:3 facet ratio interrupted astatine regular intervals by an assortment of different videos, stitched together successful a alternatively ungainly manner (Mendoza handled editing duties arsenic well, going a small chaotic successful that department). It should consciousness arsenic if Ben is moving toward a authorities of clarity aliases enlightenment, but instead, some he and nan movie person their caput successful nan clouds.