Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
See You Up There is a compelling, bittersweet story, told as romantic pageant. It’s based on a prize-winning 2013 novel by Pierre Lemaitre. The film is full of rich historical details that capture the sense of agony and resentment, but the plot is driven by huge coincidences. These entwine the four or five major characters to a ridiculous degree, but it doesn’t really matter in a film so big on circus-like theatrics and grand flourishes.
It is 1919, at the tail end and immediately following World War I, and the French are quick to honour their fallen soldiers, yet scandalously unwilling to support the veterans who return home from the front. The film opens with a sweeping shot across acres of devastated battlefield. Pockmarked by mortar blasts and lacerated with barbed wire, this hellish no-man’s-land seems hardly worth fighting for, and yet, glory hound Lt. Pradelle is determined to claim one last victory before war’s end, sending two of his troops out into the fray and shooting them in the back to galvanise his demoralised men into action.
These scenes are not especially graphic, adhering instead to a classical kind of theatricality, but they go a long way to establish audiences’ sympathies for two characters who, when the war is over, will find themselves marginalized by the very people they fought to protect. Dupontel still manages to deliver a rare object in contemporary French cinema: a commercial film that mixes high craft, surrealist humour and extremely dark themes of trauma, death, corruption and manipulation in ways that hold together very well. Indeed, if See You Up There's story of trauma and pilferage feels a bit stretched in places, the mood it leaves you with is an unusual but welcome mix of the gloomy and the giddy — a spectacle of darkness with flashes of light.