Damaged people form the heart of this offbeat drama, written and directed by Claudia Llosa, and set in the frozen far north of Canada. Primarily focused on a mother-son relationship, the narrative jumps between two time periods set 20 years apart. In the earlier scenes, we meet a single mother (Jennifer Connelly) struggling to raise two young boys; one is terminally ill, and the other, Ivan, angry and neglected, seeks solace in falconry. The family makes what seems like a fruitless journey to visit an artist-slash-faith-healer.
In the later scenes, Ivan (Cillian Murphy), still angry and still devoted to falcons, is approached by a journalist (Melanie Laurent) whose research into faith-healing has intersected with Ivan's past. Together, they set out on a journey to the Arctic Circle, each seeking to answer different questions and to confront (and perhaps resolve) devastating realities.
It's a well-acted, interesting story that often feels ill-served by this film; the narrative is almost too spare, and viewers wait quite a bit for significant details that snap together the large story. (And I'm not sure the falconry metaphors always work, with the presence of a bird rendering some scenes rather silly.) On the other hand, the hardscrabble country, with its wintry woods and flat frozen tundra, provides a good visual canvas for these emotionally battered, deeply guarded individuals to survive in.