A Walk in the Clouds
|A Walk in the Clouds|
|Directed by||Alfonso Arau|
|Based on||Four Steps in the Clouds|
by Piero Tellini, Cesare Zavattini, and Vittorio de Benedetti
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$50 million|
A Walk in the Clouds is a 1995 American romantic drama film directed by Alfonso Arau and starring Keanu Reeves, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Giancarlo Giannini, and Anthony Quinn. Written by Robert Mark Kamen, Mark Miller, and Harvey Weitzman, it is about a young soldier returning home from World War II who is looking to settle down and start a family with the woman he impulsively married just before enlisting. After learning she is not what he imagined her to be, he heads north alone to Sacramento in search of work. Along the way he meets a beautiful young woman who is heading home from college to her family vineyard to help with the grape harvest. When he learns she is pregnant and was abandoned by her boyfriend, he offers to stand in as her husband so she can face her Old World domineering father. During his stay at the vineyard, they fall in love and face the angry rejection of her father together. The film is based on the 1942 Italian film Four Steps in the Clouds, written by Piero Tellini, Cesare Zavattini, and Vittorio de Benedetti. A Walk in the Clouds was released in theaters on August 11, 1995 by Twentieth Century Fox and grossed $50 million against a $20 million budget.
In 1945, after World War II, United States Army Sgt. Paul Sutton returns to San Francisco to reunite with his wife, Betty, whom he married, following a whirlwind courtship, the day before he departed for the Pacific. The war has left him with emotional scars, and he experiences flashbacks on a regular basis.
Paul's reunion with Betty is strained, especially after he discovers that, although he has written her “almost every day,” she stopped reading his letters after the first few, and keeps the hundreds of unopened envelopes in a footlocker. He is determined to make a go of the marriage, however, and hopes to establish a new career for himself. She insists he continue to sell chocolates door-to-door, and he sets off to Sacramento. En route, he meets fellow train passenger Victoria Aragon, a graduate student whose Mexican-American family owns a vineyard in the Napa Valley. When Victoria is accosted by two men on their bus to Sacramento, Paul intervenes and ends up beating up the men in self-defense. After all three men are kicked off the bus as a result, Paul finds a crying Victoria alone, further down the road. When he learns she is pregnant by her professor, Paul offers to introduce himself to her very traditionalist family as her husband.
Victoria's father, Alberto, is infuriated, not only that she married a man below her social standing, but without his permission as well. Paul's initial plan to quietly slip away and continue on his journey, leaving her family to believe he abandoned her, is derailed when her grandfather, Don Pedro, encourages him to stay and help with the harvest. During the harvest, Paul (an orphan) grows closer to the family and learns the joys that come with their tradition, roots, and way of life. He and Victoria try to ignore their growing attraction and feelings for each other, but with little success. After a couple of days together, she finds the courage to ultimately come clean and reveal the truth to her family, further angering her father.
Paul’s honor prompts him to attempt to salvage his marriage and return home, but when he does he discovers Betty is involved with another man. She has applied for an annulment, to which he happily agrees, and he returns to the Aragon estate to ask Victoria to marry him.
When Paul returns, an argument with an angry and drunk Alberto leads to a disastrous fire which destroys the vineyard. However, Paul remembers one plant that may still have its roots intact, races off to retrieve it, and carries it to the family. The disaster, as well as Paul's bravery and dedication during it, has led to Alberto realizing his errors, and accepting Paul as one of his own, saying the roots of the plant are now officially Paul’s “roots.” Victoria and Paul seal their fate in the presence of the entire Aragon family, and all set out to replant and rebuild with the help of their newest member.
- Keanu Reeves as Sgt. Paul Sutton
- Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as Victoria Aragon
- Giancarlo Giannini as Alberto Aragon
- Anthony Quinn as Don Pedro Aragon
- Angélica Aragón as Maria Jose Aragon
- Evangelina Elizondo as Guadalupe Aragon
- Freddy Rodriguez as Pedro Aragon, Jr.
- Debra Messing as Betty Sutton
- Febronio Covarrubias as Jose Manuel
- Roberto Huerta as Jose Luis
- Juan Jiménez as Jose Marie
- Ismael Gallegos as Jose's Musical Son
- Alejandra Flores as Consuelo
- Gema Sandoval as Maria
- Don Amendolia as Father Coturri
- Gregory Paul Martin as Armistead Knox
The screenplay for the film was written by Robert Mark Kamen, Mark Miller, and Harvey Weitzman. It was based on the 1942 Italian film Four Steps in the Clouds, written by Piero Tellini, Cesare Zavattini, and Vittorio de Benedetti.
Principal photography took place on location among the wineries of Napa Valley and in the towns of Napa, St. Helena, and Sonoma. The Napa wineries included Mayacamas Vineyards and Mount Veeder Winery. The St. Helena wineries included Beringer Vineyards, the Redwood Cellar of the Charles Krug Winery, and the Duckhorn Vineyards. In Sonoma, the Haywood Vineyards was also used.
Additional filming outside the Napa Valley region took place in San Pedro, the harbor to the south of Los Angeles. The wine festival scene was actually staged in the Large Courtyard of Pasadena City Hall in Pasadena, east of Los Angeles.
- Alverno High School, 200 North Michillinda Avenue, Sierra Madre, California, USA
- Beringer Vineyards, 2000 Main Street, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, USA
- City Hall, 100 N. Garfield Avenue, Pasadena, California, USA
- Duckhorn Vineyards, 1000 Lodi Lane, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, USA
- Haywood Vineyards, 18000 Old Winery Road, Sonoma, California, USA
- Mayacamas Vineyards, 1155 Lokoya Road, Napa, Napa Valley, California, USA
- Mount Veeder Winery, 1999 Mount Veeder Road, Napa, Napa Valley, California, USA
- Redwood Cellar, Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, USA
- San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, USA
The film score was written by Maurice Jarre, but included four songs by other composers:
- "Crush the Grapes" (Alfonso Arau and Leo Brouwer) performed by Roberto Huerta, Juan Jiménez, Febronio Covarrubias, and Ismael Gallegos
- "Beer Barrel Polka" (Wladimir A. Timm, Jaromir Vejvoda, and Lew Brown)
- "Canción mixteca" (José López Alavés) performed by Ismael Gallegos
- "Mariachi's Serenade" (Alfonso Arau and Leo Brouwer) performed by Roberto Huerta, Juan Jiménez, Febronio Covarrubias, and Ismael Gallegos
Release & Critical Reception
A Walk in the Clouds is a glorious romantic fantasy, aflame with passion and bittersweet longing. One needs perhaps to have a little of these qualities in one's soul to respond fully to the film, which to a jaundiced eye might look like overworked melodrama, but that to me sang with innocence and trust...At a time when movies seem obligated to be cynical, when it is easier to snicker than to sigh, what a relief this film is!
A couple of turns of plot—including the histrionic ending—seem less magical than overwrought, but A Walk in the Clouds is for the most part a beautiful, well-acted and emotionally rich picture...In this very warm-hearted film, Reeves' face is the movie's focus of kindness and decency—and he stands up to scrutiny. There's not just sweetness there but depth.
On the other hand, Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called it "a phenomenally atrocious movie—so bad, in fact, that you might actually manage to squeeze a few laughs out of it...The film has the syrupy, Kodak magic-moment look of a Bo Derek movie, and pretty much the same level of substance."
As of March 2019, A Walk in the Clouds holds a rating of 44% on Rotten Tomatoes from 27 reviews with the consensus: "A Walk in the Clouds aims for sweeping period romance, but quickly unravels thanks to a miscast leading man and a story that relies on cheap melodrama."
Awards and nominations
In recent interviews Debra Messing claimed she was tricked into signing a nudity waiver after being assured by the producers that no nudity scenes would be required because it was going to be a PG-13 movie, they couldn't show them anyway, nothing was going to happen and the director just had a big ego. She only learned on set that for the international release version those scenes nevertheless would be filmed. Asking the director about what angles would be shot since she wanted to be prepared, he told her that as an actress she had no right to ask about his shots and it was her job to get naked. Debra described this experience as sexual harassment which she only realized afterward since she thought it was part of the business at the time.
- "A Walk in the Clouds". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
- "A Walk in the Clouds". The Numbers. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
- Alfonzo Arau (director) (2009). A Walk in the Clouds (DVD). Beverly Hills, California: 20th Century Fox.
- "A Walk in the Clouds Film Locations". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- "A Walk in the Clouds (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Ebert, Roger (August 11, 1995). "A Walk in the Clouds". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
- LaSalle, Mick (August 11, 1995). "Reeves Takes Walk And Runs With It". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
- Hinson, Hal (August 11, 1995). "A Walk in the Clouds". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
- "A Walk in the Clouds Movie Review". Variety. January 1, 1995. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
- "Comedy Actresses Roundtable". July 3, 2018. Retrieved July 18, 2020.