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The Secret Art of Human Flight (2024) Movie Review

The Secret Art of Human Flight

Ben (Grant Rosenmeyer) is deeply affected. His wife and creative partner Sarah (Reina Hardesty) passes away suddenly, leaving him in a state of disbelief. He neglects his basic needs, lost in a perpetual daze. Unwilling to care for himself, Ben remains on the front lawn when his sister Gloria (Lucy DeVito) and her husband Tom (Nican Robinson) go on a short trip, unmoved to return indoors or seek shelter from the sun.

 

The loss of his wife propels Ben to seek a greater purpose. He encounters Mealworm (Paul Raci), a mysterious figure from the dark web, who offers to teach him the elusive art of human flight. In the presence of his enigmatic mentor, Ben faces more challenging training than he bargained for. Faced with Gloria’s worry and a suspicious detective, Ben must decide who to trust – the stranger in his home or those concerned for his well-being.

Director H.P. Mendoza explores grief in “The Secret Art of Human Flight” rather than the quest for flight. Flashbacks reveal snippets of Ben’s life with Sarah, highlighting their joyous moments, the whimsical process of creating children’s books, and the turbulent aspects of any relationship – the instances of discord, unexpected news, or unresolved conversations.

Ben is in constant turmoil, grappling with sorrow over Sarah’s loss, tentative belief in Mealworm’s peculiar mentoring, and the hope for solace in a world that now seems unfamiliar. Mendoza captures Ben’s emotional rollercoaster with sensitivity and sincerity, closely observing Rosenmeyer’s performance to convey every emotional subtlety, from vacant stares to moments of fury when it seems Mealworm has misled him.

Written by Jesse Orenshein, the film’s script is both inventive and emotional. The dynamic between Ben and Sarah feels authentic rather than idealized, drawing viewers into Ben’s seemingly impossible mission, despite apprehensions about Mealworm’s teachings. Similar to “Alice in Wonderland,” the audience accompanies Ben on a surreal yet enlightening journey.

Orenshein crafts Mealworm’s eccentric training regime and philosophy through a self-help book, instructing Ben to conquer challenges like jumping over glass shards, sleeping on the roof, shedding weight, and mimicking a bird for a week to learn how to fly. Raci’s character resembles a blend of Wonderland’s caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat as a life coach, with the actor delivering a standout performance by issuing odd demands with a knowing smile, pushing Ben to his limits repeatedly. The only drawback is Detective Reyes’ (Rosa Arredondo) portrayal, which at times feels overly suspicious, almost villainous.

 

Within the constraints of a modest production, cinematographer Markus Mentzer crafts visually captivating scenes, such as an exposed Ben meditating amidst self-made clouds in a sunlit, sky-blue room. Though raw, this vulnerable moment offers a glimpse of Ben’s serenity, a motif revisited throughout the film.

The film’s visual style, while slightly unpolished, does not diminish Ben’s narrative significantly. Mendoza, who also handled editing, occasionally lags in pacing and utilizes simplistic post-production effects that detract from the overall polish.

What resonates most with viewers is Mendoza and Orenshein’s poignant depiction of the grieving process: its profound depths, tearful introspections, moments of euphoria, phases of numbness – encapsulating the complexity of bereavement. While Ben alone experiences his loss, various individuals offer solace in their unique ways. It is Ben’s voyage, and the viewers are mere passengers – or in this case, fellow flyers.

 

The Secret Art of Human Flight movie poster

The Secret Art of Human Flight (2024)

107 minutes

Cast

Grant Rosenmeyer
as Ben Grady

Paul Raci
as Mealworm

Maggie Grace
as Wendy

Lucy DeVito
as Gloria

Reina Hardesty
as Sarah

Nican Robinson
as Tom

Director

  • H.P. Mendoza

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