THE SECRET ART OF HUMAN FLIGHT Review: Indie Dramedy About Grief, Hope and Effective Techniques for Alienating Neighbours

Directed by H.P. Mendoza, the film stars Grant Rosenmeyer, Paul Raci, Maggie Grace, Lucy DeVito, and Sendhil Ramamurthy.

Contributing Writer
THE SECRET ART OF HUMAN FLIGHT Review: Indie Dramedy About Grief, Hope and Effective Techniques for Alienating Neighbours

Ben (Grant Rosenmeyer) is sitting on the toilet and melancholically scrolling through the internet when he bumps into a video of a man seemingly jumping off a cliff – but then somehow flying.

Intrigued, Ben decides to further immerse himself into the topic, venturing into the dark net and finding out that the man from the video (Paul Raci) is indeed alive, has written a guide book and is more than willing to train Ben in, well, the art of human flight. The more Ben gets engaged in the process, the more understandably concerned his family (Lucy DeVito and Nican Robinson) get.

For the context – he has just lost his wife and creative partner Sarah (Reina Hardesty), who died so unexpectedly that the detective on the case (Rosa Arredondo) is convinced her husband might have killed her for insurance. At the periphery of Ben’s troubles, there is Wendy (Maggie Grace), who also suffered a loss in the past and who inadvertently supports his new hobby by claiming that finding a crazy thing and seeing it though will help him overcome his grief.

The Secret Art of Human Flight, the new film by H.P. Mendoza – an auteur who made Fruit Fly, I Am a Ghost and Attack, Decay, Release, as well as co-wrote Colma: The Musical – starts with a funeral. What's supposed be an entirely grim affair, is mostly awkward with a pinch of quirkiness to it.

Eccentricity is a trademark of Mendoza’s filmmaking, and his latest feature, which had its original premiere a year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival, is sticking to the staple. From the very start, the movie sets a very particular tone that’s both light-hearted and bitter-sweet, both straight-faced and tongue in cheek.

The actors’ ensemble sort of mimics this aesthetical duality. Grant Rosenmeyer is obviously at the center of it all, and his performance is stoically grounded in the midst of the most insane circumstances the plot throws at Ben. Maggie Grace appears sporadically and simply shines in her brief scenes. And Paul Racy playing the flying guru (not the words you get to type very often) shows just the right amount of quiet genial madness.

The weaker trait of The Secret Art of Human Flight that brings it down just a bit is a certain predictability, as incongruous as it may sound in regards to a movie that features a grown man trying to communicate with a pigeon. As soon as you get a grasp of how humor works here – mostly verging on lightly absurdist and often having someone say something with the next scene showing the exact opposite – you can easily predict most of the jokes to come.

Once the bit about Winnebago is introduced, you can hazard a pretty solid guess about when and how it will pay off. There is also only one possible way this story can end to serve as an exploration of grief and letting a loved one go.

It is a satisfying finale, though, with a good emotional punch. Sure, it would be even more satisfying if someone broke out into a spontaneous song and dance extravaganza, but, as a nutrition guru would probably confirm, we just can't have all the good things in one seating. 

The film is now playing in select U.S. theaters. 

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Grant RosenmeyerH.P. MendozaLucy DeVitoMaggie GracePaul RaciSendhil Ramamurthy

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