Bliss describes itself as “a mind-bending love story”, and it delivers. Greg (Owen Wilson) begins his journey as a very average, workaday introvert whose serendipitous misfortune leads him to Isabel (Salma Hayek). As her nomadic, rebellious spirit draws him into her “off the grid” lifestyle, she possesses and shares with him an unusual set of powers that compel him to completely abandon his former life. The lines of reality begin to blur when the devotion from his children (Nesta Cooper, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) pulls him in a different direction than Isabel’s enticing promises.
The charm and wit of this film definitely had me buying into whatever whacky storyworld they were selling. There is very little explanation involved for how their corporeality actually works- but the experience of it alone is enough to keep its audience baited until some fruitful bits of information are finally granted. Some of the rules surrounding the use of their powers are so unfounded and fuzzy that I found myself making a conscious effort to glaze over them so as not to ruin the rest of the film. But I must admit, just when I began to lose faith in the strength of this story, I was, almost as if perfectly on cue, hooked back in.
Major themes of this piece highlight connection- and only manage to strengthen that bond with the audience as it plays with our expectations. The early development of Greg and Isabel’s romance immediately signals that there is so much more to this story. Right off the bat, it was subtle and masterful at building anticipation. The characters’ further dissension into madness was filmed as a poetic and beautiful undoing followed by a hard crash.
I really enjoyed that this film was able to laugh at itself while still maintaining its purpose. This notion was absolutely sold by Wilson and Hayek as a pair: both characters charming and unique in a way that still manages to stay true to their signatures as actors. Salma Hayek in particular is magnetically mysterious and oh so dynamic.
Cooper and Lendeborg Jr. really, truly carry such an important weight in this film and do so with such ease. Through them, the complexity and loyalty within the broken family shine through in a meaningful way. When the motivations of the main characters seem to meander, the on-screen sibling duo are right there to bring us back in touch with what is at stake.
The extraordinary use of colour and sound simultaneously define and blur the coexisting realities of the narrative. The stark, and yet beautiful contrast really illustrates the emotional gravity behind the switching timelines. Additionally, sporting what will definitely be the best cameo of this 2021 film season.
The most successful aspect of this film is the choice to put at its forefront, a focus on the synergy of relationships, truth, and environment. Because these concepts are prioritized above the debate of “what is real, what is illusion?”, acceptance of this hard-to-digest storyline comes a lot easier to me. Not often in a futuristic, science based drama is the spotlight befittingly given to the emotional capacity of a plot and off of the guesswork.