The story is told by David Aames in flashbacks to a prison psychologist as he is awaiting trial for murdering his girlfriend. David seems to have everything: money, fame, friends, women. But all of that is shattered when he falls in love with a Sofia, captivating young woman and a jealous ex-lover, Julie, drives him off of a bridge, killing herself and disfiguring him. Soon, David’s world is spiraling out of control and he can’t seem to discern or trust reality.
Vanilla Sky is a remake of a Spanish film, Abre Los Ojos, and Penelope Cruz played the same role in both films. Cameron Crowe directed this remake and did a spectacular job.
Pay particular attention to the use of lighting and the contrast in David’s world between when he is with Sophia and when he is not. His world without her is cloaked in darkness and despair, and she truly is the love and the light of his life.
The film also features many pop culture references seamlessly blended into the film. Normally, this indicates some type of parody or satire, but they fit into this film perfectly, and given the conclusion of the film, their inclusion makes perfect sense and truly helps the story play out.
Another favorite part of this film for me has always been its soundtrack. Music is not just used as background noise in this film, but forms an important part of the film. Songs like “Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead, “Last Goodbye” by Jeff Buckley, “Sweetness Follows” by R.E.M., and “The Healing Room” by Sinead O’Connor all highlight key story elements at the moment the songs play in the film. It is a brilliant use of music to enhance the story.
Vanilla Sky is a film that was heavily criticized and criminally underrated when it was released, but even at the time, I found it to be a special film. I loved the complexity: part morality tale, part love story, part science fiction, part mystery. It’s a film that balances a whole lot, but it does it well.