Directed by Kaleo La Belle
Stoned for the last 40 years, 70-year-old Cloud Rock La Belle has been conspicuously absent much of his son Kaleo’s life. Psychedelic drugs and absolute freedom, Cloud Rock proclaims, are religious beliefs and therefore paramount. Long-estranged from Kaleo, he finally reaches out in a posted letter, and the two men reconnect for a demanding 500-mile bike tour across America’s Pacific Northwest.
That’s the premise of Beyond This Place. In it, Kaleo, a director and new father residing in Switzerland, is eager to document the journey and forgive a dad who is unwilling to compromise his hedonistic ideals while living in Portland, Ore. But seeing beyond their polar-opposite values and philosophies proves challenging. And by directly confronting the past, the father and son seemingly struggle to forge a future together.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Cloud Rock was a pioneer hippie on Maui, where he habitually meditated in lava tubes and took psychedelic drugs while fasting. He did whatever sounded fun and whatever he could afford — while dodging the Vietnam War draft in the United States.
In the film, Cloud Rock admits that his pursuit of happiness easily eclipsed his paternal duties. But he insists that his entire life was not meant to disappoint his child; rather it was about helping Kaleo to become his own man.
“If one wants to succeed, one has to make sacrifices, and apparently my son was sacrificed at the altar, but not cut in two,” he says rather flippantly in one scene. “In the end, life is about play. Life is about freedom. Life is about rejoicing. . . . Just because people in the world are suffering, it does not obligate you to also be suffering.”
Much is conveyed about Cloud Rock here, but little is revealed about Kaleo, who seems more comfortable behind the camera. But the way in which Kaleo presents his father suggests that he has become a confused and indignant adult.
Emotionally dense, Beyond This Place faithfully explores this father-son bond of misunderstanding, frustration and, potentially, acceptance. As evidenced in the film, Kaleo’s fractured relationship with his father does influence the man he becomes. And although the director finds no closure at the end of the road, the family reunion across the Pacific Northwest helps him start the arduous task of moving forward.
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