The Secret Art of Human Flight – Tribeca 2023

L-R: Mealworm (Paul Raci) and Ben (Grant Rosenmeyer) in The Secret Art of Human Flight. Photo credit: Markus Mentzer.

A grieving children’s book author turns to the dark web and orders a self-help book in The Secret Art of Human Flight.

The film was one of two Vanishing Angle productions to premiere at Tribeca. It’s a film that is very high-concept in nature with an ending that I’m still thinking about. The ending is one of the big reasons why my review did not go up immediately after watching. Days after watching the film, I’m still not sure what to make of the ending. Whether that’s good news or bad news, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s what the filmmakers wanted? I did not stay for the Q&A so I was not on hand for any of the fun insight that usually gets spoken about during that time. It would not surprise me if the film’s ending came up.

Ben Grady (Grant Rosenmeyer) is not having the best of it when we first meet him. His wife, Sarah (Reina Hardesty), recently died. You’ll couldn’t blame him for withdrawing from everything and driving his sister, Gloria (Lucy DeVito), and brother-in-law, Tom (Nican Robinson) away. Everybody wants Ben to snap out of it but like anyone in mourning, he must be allowed to mourn on his own terms. After watching a video where a man jumps off a cliff and flies, Ben looks into his book, which has the same name as the film. The next thing you know, Mealworm (Paul Raci) drops it off at his door. Mealworm’s tactics are less than ethical but he only means for the best intentions.

As Ben dives headfirst into the book, he starts changing his entire life, much to the dismay of family and friends. I’m not sure sleeping on the roof is the best idea. It’s just one of many examples in The Secret Art of Human Flight. Ben’s new activities soon lead to his being placed in a psych ward. As the film heads into the final act, it certainly becomes harder to tell what is real and what is fantasy. That’s why I feel that the ending has an open ending. One can only read into it what they will.

Grief is not something that we overcome easily. Some people are able to hide behind a façade while others make no attempt to hide it. We all have our own ways of grieving. For instance, Judaism has the initial seven-day shiva period and the 30-day shloshim. Mourners will attend shul and recite Mourner’s Kaddish for the first 11 months after the funeral. But anyway, the shloshim period is when Jews cannot perform certain activities. The more you know…

I love what Grant Rosenmeyer brings to the film. You really feel for his character, who just lost the love of his life. Jesse Orenshein’s script takes Ben on such an arc that you find it hard to believe this is the same Ben that we meet at the start of the film. Meanwhile, to say that Paul Raci crushes the role is not an understatement. He’s honestly more terrifying here than he was in Sound of Metal. I’ll say this much just from watching his work in the film: his Oscar nomination was not a fluke.

In as much as The Secret Art of Human Flight is about the grieving process, it’s also about finding the ability to connect again. How one does this is easier said than done. For Ben, he starts with the book, then Mealworm, and then both his family and Sarah’s friends.

DIRECTOR: H.P. Mendoza
SCREENWRITER: Jesse Orenshein
CAST: Grant Rosenmeyer, Paul Raci, Lucy DeVito, Nican Robinson, Rosa Arredondo, Reina Hardesty, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Jennean Farmer, and Maggie Grace

The Secret Art of Human Flight held its world premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival in the U.S. Narrative Competition. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.