A review of “Aloft,” starring Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy as an estranged mother and son. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.

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Those grumbling their way through the current Great Seattle Heat Wave might find some respite in “Aloft,” a movie that seems to take place entirely in ice-caked, shivery wastelands. But otherwise, it’s hard to find much to recommend in this film, a grim and often mystifying tale of a mother (Jennifer Connelly), a son (Cillian Murphy), and a terrible tragedy that both binds them and splits them apart.

Written and directed, rather claustrophobically, by Claudia Llosa (“Madeinusa,” “The Milk of Sorrow”), “Aloft” flits back and forth between two time periods. In the past, Nana and her son Ivan (played as a child by Zen McGrath) cope with the illness of Ivan’s brother Gully (Winta McGrath); 20 years later, a grown Ivan is estranged from his mother, now a well-known artist and healer. A journalist (Mélanie Laurent), with her own tragic secret, convinces Ivan to see Nana again.

Connelly, with her signature brand of serene toughness, does tragedy very well, but she doesn’t really have a character to play here; just an endless series of tight close-ups and troubled expressions. Likewise, Murphy (who’s well cast; he and Connelly have similarly pale, piercing eyes) can’t emerge from the screenplay’s murkiness. The two have an electric scene near the end, but it’s too little, too late: “Aloft,” an icy film in every sense, has already gone adrift.

Movie Review ★★  

‘Aloft,’ with Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, Mélanie Laurent, William Shimell, Zen McGrath, Winta McGrath. Written and directed by Claudia Llosa. 97 minutes. Rated R for language and some sexuality. Pacific Place, Sundance (21+).