A split couple avoid making things official in this awkward but honest relationship tale.
A Wonderful Cloud
Most films involving ex-lovers center around feelings of hostility and resentment between the two parties, but Eugene Kotlyarenko’s A Wonderful Cloud takes a different approach—a common theme in this micro-budget film—demonstrating love doesn’t always disappear when the relationship ends. Appropriately slated in the Visions program at this year’s SXSW festival, A Wonderful Cloud is nothing if not audacious, but it’s often too ballsy for its own good. Having no limits means having the freedom to go anywhere, but in this case it means diving into uncomfortable places—poop jokes are a running gag—courageously displaying the blood, sweat, and semen (literally) of its insufferable characters without remorse. Despite all the ugliness and imperfections (and there’s plenty), I found it strangely difficult to condemn its exaggerated portrayal of a modern L.A. hipster subculture. It’s brutally honest and filled with energy. And yes, it’s also very weird.
A Wonderful Cloud begins with Katelyn (Kate Lyn Sheil) traveling to Los Angeles with hopes to finalize paperwork on the clothing company she started with her ex-boyfriend Eugene (Eugene Kotlyarenko). Both are in relationships with other people now, but they aren’t as meaningful as the relationship they once shared. This is especially true of Eugene, who is seen having sex with his current girlfriend with an uninterested look on his face. Though unwilling to admit it, Eugene desperately wants to impress Katelyn. He’d say he’s just trying to make her feel bad about ending their relationship, but contemplating which outfit to wear when picking her up from the airport suggests there’s a lingering emotional attachment.
Over the course of a weekend, the two do everything in their power to put off signing the business papers and focus on rekindling their friendship. Eugene takes pride in showing Katelyn his favorite food truck and introducing her to his eccentric group of friends, though she’s not particularity impressed by either. They spend their time with some of the weirdest people L.A. has to offer, making the film surprisingly entertaining considering most of it involves people just hanging out. Surrounded by self-proclaimed artists with no real talent, A Wonderful Cloud ponders what life would be like if everyone was an obnoxious American Apparel model, caring only about themselves and their reputation. It’s an exaggerated portrait, but unfortunately one that doesn’t appear too far-fetched.
While the film mostly relies on its bizarre characters for laughs, improvised dialogue keeps the film interesting and organic. But more importantly, the off-the-cuff chemistry between Sheil and Kotlyarenko (likely a result from the couple’s real-life romance) adds an unexpected amount of charm for a film made up of melodramatic hipsters with annoying personalities. A Wonderful Cloud is semi-autobiographical for Kotlyarenko, even using personal iPhone footage recorded back in 2010 when he and Sheil were dating, which adds just a pinch of authenticity to counterbalance the otherwise embellished absurdities.
As with most experimental projects, there are some things that work in A Wonderful Cloud and others that don’t. There are moments that test patience, jokes that fall flat, and questionable stylistic choices. But the film is undeniably honest and unafraid to explore uncomfortable boundaries. It has no shame in showing masturbation, excrement, nudity, and the ugliness of its characters, occasionally all at the same time. Technology plays an important role in the film—examining how ride sharing transforms how we get around, Skype changes how we communicate with long-distance family, selfies and social media fuel the narcissist millennial generation, and smartphones enable us all to become directors and stars of our own movies. Maybe the film is a reminder that just because anyone can document everything about their lives, doesn’t mean they should or that doing so holds any meaning in the end.