Review: Bask in the feel-good glory of ‘What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?’

Ani Karseladze in the 2021 drama “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?”
Ani Karseladze in “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?”
(Marius Land / Mubi)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Girl meets boy in the streets of Eastern Europe’s Kutaisi, Georgia, sparking a timid attraction. However, before their first date comes to pass, a curse befalls them. Overnight, their physical appearance will change drastically, preventing them from recognizing each other.

That’s the setup for the most entrancingly feel-good movie of the year, which urges you tell anyone who’d listen about its wondrous existence so they can bask in its soul-soothing magic too.


A fairy-tale romance, a soccer (or football) saga, a portrait of small-town charm and an ode to unencumbered youth are all wrapped up in the radiantly playful and lyrically optimistic “What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?” from writer, director and perspicacious narrator Alexandre Koberidze.

Employed by the same man, Lisa (Ani Karseladze) and Giorgi (Giorgi Bochorishvili) meet again in their new bodies, oblivious to their true identities. We take their transformation as fact with the same openhearted trust as when this momentarily interactive film asks we briefly close our eyes to preserve its whimsy. Subdued visual flourishes abound, as do lively transitions, pointed wide shots, and eclectic editing practices.

Carefree childhood vignettes are illuminated by cinematographer Faraz Fesharaki with a summery glow and the promise of life ahead. Without tainting the enchantment, Koberidze introduces small tonal shifts to touch on the world’s darkness beyond his frames. More than blatant aphorisms, these tangible reflections note how soon we forget we were once kids chasing a ball.

With his cinematic imagination operating at peak potency, Koberidze’s directorial feat summons the essence of Abbas Kiarostami’s early feature “The Traveler,” the trenchant voiceover of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie” and the musical agility of bygone silent classics — reproduced here in the stimulating instrumentals of composer Giorgi Koberidze.

Through its ever-replenishing ability to reveal the exceptional from what we thought ordinary, “Sky” introduces us to local dogs with complex social interactions and sports viewing preferences, as well as a filmmaking team on the prowl for singular couples to adorn the celluloid. And as we periodically check in with Lisa, a former pharmacist, and Giorgi, previously a footballer, their connection shows signs of reversing the unfortunate spell — with some help from the truth-revealing powers of a camera.

Side effects to such luminosity may include the discharge of joyful tears washing over a nostalgic grin.


‘What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?’

In Georgian with English subtitles

Not Rated

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West L.A.