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What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?
Written and directed by Aleksandre Koberidze
Starring Giorgi Ambroladze, Giorgi Bochorishvili, Ani Karseladze and Oliko Barbakadze
Classification N/A; 160 minutes
Now streaming on Mubi
Canadian audiences sure can be territorial – and god bless ‘em.
In my recent roundup of the most underrated films currently streaming on Canada’s major services, I neglected to mention a number of niche-y streamers that, judging by my inbox, readers are extraordinarily passionate about. Where was Shudder, Acorn, BritBox, Roku, MHZChoice and so on? I admit: If I fit in absolutely every streaming service available to Canadians, the entirety of The Globe and Mail would be devoted to movie recommendations (hey, that’s not a half-bad suggestion...).
To compensate, though, this week I’m spotlighting the excellent if somewhat gimmicky art-house streamer Mubi. Specifically: Mubi’s latest acquisition, the Georgian fantasy-drama What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, one of the very best films to play the film festival circuit last year.
A quick primer on Mubi: Specializing in global cinema, the streamer showcases both a deep catalogue of recent releases and a rotating “Film of the Day” category, in which a new movie is added every day – but subscribers only have 30 days to watch it before it is replaced by another selection. The quick turnaround aims to deliver a sense of urgency to a digital landscape largely absent viewing windows, though it can also be unnecessarily confusing and stressful for audiences who prefer to take their time. But Mubi’s trick is worth experimenting with if only to watch What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?
A playful epic in miniature about love, identity and elbows (yes!), writer-director Alexandre Koberidze’s ambitious and mesmerizing film was an absolute standout when it premiered at 2021′s virtual Berlinale film festival, and still lingers in my mind nearly a year later.
Set in contemporary Kutaisi, a riverside Georgian town that seems to be in a perpetual state of lazy summertime bliss, the film follows two would-be lovers: charming soccer player Giorgi (Giorgi Ambroladze) and kindhearted pharmacist Lisa (Ani Karseladze). The two literally bump into each other on the street, plan a date, and go to sleep, each anticipating a thrilling new romance for the next day.
The hitch: Both Giorgi and Lisa awaken in totally different bodies. Giorgi is now played by Giorgi Bochorishvili, and Lisa by Oliko Barbakadze. With no way to recognize each other – at least not without sounding like a complete lunatic – the two find themselves prisoners of fate, or something more nefarious.
Split into two parts and narrated by Koberidze himself, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is a true magic act, intimate and massive at the same time. There are talking plants, onscreen instructions to the audience, and a lot of time devoted to the simple pleasure of watching a World Cup game in the open air while drinking a cold beer. This description might strike some as being overly precious, but if you can trust me at all, then trust this: Koberidze’s film will leave you feeling better about the future of international filmmaking, and just the future of this world, than when you started.
And all you have to do to reach this level of joy is hit the “subscribe” button on the Mubi app.
In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.