In writer-director Claudia Llosa‘s Aloft, Jennifer Connelly plays a troubled woman who gets reacquainted with her adult son, whom she abandoned 20 years ago.

Jennifer Connelly, Claudia Llosa On ‘Aloft’

“For me, I thought that she was someone who had a great strength, almost stoicism,” Connelly told uInterview exclusively, speaking of her character Nana Kunning. “But I think if anything the one key [to playing her] is embracing how complicated life can be and how multi-faceted, and allowing her to be complex and make decisions that might not necessarily reflect myself and the choices that I might make as a mother.”

Llosa, the Peruvian filmmaker who received an Oscar nod for The Milk of Sorrow, wanted to return to the theme of loss and healing, specifically self-healing in Aloft. “Starting with a typical family and what happens and what happened, how do we find the way to repair ourselves,” Llosa said, explaining the essence of her latest film. “How do we find the way to believe in life and ourselves again, and what is that mystery and difficulty in accepting the vulnerability of life?”

In Aloft, Connelly’s Nana joins a New Age spiritual group with her two young sons Ivan (Zen McGrath) and Gully (Winta McGrath), believing in the powers of the leader, dubbed The Architect (William Shimmell). Years later, after Gully’s death and abandoning Ivan, Nana is now a healer. Though her apparent spiritually is a through-line in the film, Connelly believes it’s secondary to the dynamics between the mother and son.

“I didn’t meet with healers in preparation for the role because the majority of the story is really about this woman, who actually isn’t quite sure if she believes in that for most of the story,” Connelly told uInterview. “She’s very skeptical about this type of healing herself. And so for me it was more a story of the mother and the son and this journey that they make back to one another. And it’s open ended, I think, to whether she has that power [to heal] or not.”

Connelly has a number of heavy emotional scenes throughout Aloft, one of which one might think the actress would list as the most difficult to shoot for the film. Not so for the Academy Award winning actress. “Maybe working in the hog lot, that was kind of challenging,” the actress said with a smile.

Aloft, which also stars Cillian Murphy, Mélanie Laurent and Oona Chaplin, hits select theaters May 22.

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Q: Jennifer, what was key to you understanding your character? -

I don’t know that there’s one key. I think that she’s a complicated woman in a very difficult situation. For me, I thought that she was someone who had a great strength, almost stoicism. But I think if anything the one key is embracing how complicated life can be and how multi-faceted, and allowing her to be complex and make decisions that might not necessarily reflect myself and the choices that I might make as a mother.

Q: Claudia, where did the idea for this film come from? -

It was a very organic process. I finished the promo of my prior film, The Milk of Sorrow, that also kind of managed the themes of healing in terms of self-healing and the question of how can we battle loss and tragedy, and I explore that from the Andes point of view, so I really wanted to explore this in a different kind of focus. Starting with a typical family and what happens and what happened, how do we find the way to repair ourselves? How do we find the way to believe in life and ourselves again, and what is that mystery and difficulty in accepting the vulnerability of life? And all of these questions were the beginning and the force for the story for me.

Q: Jennifer, do you believe in healers, playing one in the film? -

You know, we talked about sort of where she had been. I didn’t meet with healers in preparation for the role because the majority of the story is really about this woman, who actually isn't quite sure if she believes in that for most of the story. She’s very skeptical about this type of healing herself. And so for me it was more a story of the mother and the son and this journey that they make back to one another. And it’s open ended, I think, to whether she has that power or not.

Q: Which were the most difficult scenes for each of you? -

I don’t think there’s one difficult moment in the film that I remember. As for me, it was kind of the challenge with the whole getting together the whole cast you know. Working in that very complicated atmosphere with heavy weather conditions and with little budget and with all the things that could happen on the way, you kind of have to find the way back and never forget what is important in the film. So for me, it was the whole process, like the challenge itself. I cannot pick a single moment really. JC: Maybe working in the hog lot, that was kind of challenging. CL: That’s true. But that wasn’t for me but for you. JC: For me I found it difficult.