A Walk In The Clouds, directed by Alfonso Arau, is a PG-13 romantic drama, which is mostly set in Sonoma, California. Paul Sutton, played by Keanu Reeves, is a returning World War Two soldier, who has trouble adjusting to his civilian life. He returns to his home to find that his wife, whom he had married before he left for the war, did not share his dreams for a nuclear family life. Paul’s wife tries to pressure him into going back to his old job as a traveling chocolate salesman. While Paul is on the train he takes pity on an upset young woman named Victoria Aragon (played by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon.) Victoria is heading home from college and she is very distraught because she is pregnant and she knows that her father will disown her because she doesn’t have a husband. Paul offers to pose as Victoria’s husband for a day so that she can act as though he left her. Predictably, Paul begins to fall for Victoria and her family.
The Aragon family has very strong cultural values and is upheld by strong traditional values. For example, the whole family comes together to harvest the grapes from the families wine vineyard. There is a giant festival where the whole family joins in a harvest with Aztec rituals. Everyone is having fun and following cultural traditions. The unmarried women, for example, are not allowed to go into the giant vat of grapes. The Aragon family’s values are placed very highly on marriage. Victoria knew that if she came home pregnant and without a husband, she would be a disgrace to her father and her family. Another ritual that is embraced in this film is the lover’s song underneath the window. Paul, under the instruction of Victoria’s Grandfather, goes under Victoria’s window. Paul sings her a love song, and he waits for her to turn on the light. If Victoria turns on the light it means that he is accepted, and if she does not then he is rejected. It is also very important in Spanish families to listen to and respect your elders. Victoria’s grandparents still live in the Aragon house, and they are shown great respect and the screenwriter portrays them as all knowing. The family also places high value on the family name. The name Pedro was passed through the generations, and when Pedro Jr. calls himself “Pete” his father just about has a conniption fit. It is important in the Spanish culture to uphold the family name and to not bring disgrace to your family.
The Aragon family is structured as a patriarchy, and also according to Parson’s structure. The extended family lives in the home, and they still have a say in what goes on in the house. Don Pedro (the grandfather) used to run the vineyard and family, and now Mr. Aragon (Victoria’s father) runs them. The family roles are very gendered. The father has always been the breadwinner in the Aragon household. The Mother and grandmother stay home to cook and clean; the women have always been the homemakers. This is very traditional in a Spanish household. The only really modern revelation in the family structure is Victoria. She represents change. A woman would never have been allowed to go away to school as Victoria had. The children, Pedro Jr. and Victoria, are still dependant on their father, even though they live far away for most of the year. The Family relationships are forced in to morphogenesis when Victoria comes home with her new “husband.” Victoria’s father is enraged and he attempts to reestablish the family boundaries. The Grandparents are completely supportive of Victoria and Paul, and they try to help them out in anyway that they can. Victoria’s mother, who is somewhat silenced in public by her husband, tries to smooth things over for Victoria.
The Aragon family was an immigrant family, 3 generations before Victoria’s father. The family began with only one grape vine, but they built their vineyard up to be very profitable. Victoria’s father was able to afford to run his vineyard and home with a staff, and to send his two children to reputable universities. The Aragon family had definitely moved up on the social class ladder since their move to America. The family seems to be in the upper middle class. All parents want their children to do better than they did. I don’t know if that will be possible for Pedro Jr. and Victoria because of the fire. The vineyard was the family’s income, and now that it is gone the family will be forced to learn new trades and begin from the bottom again.
Mr. Aragon is very concerned with the well being of his children, and he wants the best for both of them. Mr. Aragon sends his kids to the best universities, and he buys them nice things, but he doesn’t realize that they fear him. He tries so hard to keep them in line that his children would rather lie to him than disappoint him. Victoria goes so far as to have Paul, a complete stranger, come home with her and pose as her husband. At one point Victoria goes so far as to say that she hates her father because he is so hard on her. The mother and grandparents have a closer and more emotional relationship with the children. The mother and grandparents seem to know everything and be completely understanding in all circumstances. Where Alberto Aragon is hardheaded and stubborn, his wife is understanding and compassionate.
The quality of the marriage between Alberto Aragon (Victoria’s father) and Marie Aragon (Victoria’s mother) is very interesting. There is a lot of tension and high levels of marital conflict when a problem arises in the family. However, the couple is calm and loving when they are alone. Alberto appears to wear the pants in the family, but behind closed doors his wife talks him into taking more compassionate approaches to family matters. Marie talked Alberto into apologizing and being civil to Victoria and Paul. Marie understands her husband and knows that he is often irrational and hardheaded, and she makes up for him with her compassion and understanding.
The parents of Alberto Aragon live with him, his wife and their kids. Three generations live and work together. Don Pedro had taken care of his children, and now in his old age, they were taking care of him. In a way this establishes the families identity across time. The vineyard was passed down from generation to generation, and would have continued to do so, had it not been burned to a crisp. The family stuck together through thick and thin, they looked out for and helped one another. Having the grandparents live at home has a positive influence not only on the children, but also on Alberto and Marie. The grandparents understand the nature of the family, and they try to make everything all right without making everyone upset.
A Walk In The Clouds is a wonderful film; it shows a traditional Spanish family that still carries most of its traditional values. The Aragon family shows the viewer interesting relationships between generations, in marriage, and between parents and their children. There is plenty of conflict and resolution in the film, and there is some humor too. The actors and actresses are extremely heartfelt, and it makes for a wonderful movie.
Lecture by Professor Ross Parke, Thursday April 12, 2001. Riverside, CA
Lecture by Professor Ross Parke, Thursday April 19, 2001. Riverside, CA