Eye For Film >> Movies >> Long Way North (2015) Film Review
Long Way North
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Rémi Chayé's feature debut is bold in its storytelling and its design, doing away with the most frequently trotted out idea of good guys versus bad guys to embrace an intrepid adventure to the North Pole. Writers Claire Paoletti, Patricia Valeix and Chayé draw inspiration from the likes of Ernest Shackleton's exploits in the opposite direction, adding fresh impetus by placing a teenage heroine front and centre.
Chayé previously worked on Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey's intricate The Secret Of Kells and like that animation, this film has a style that is all its own. Chayé uses blocks of colour, light and shade, drawing on the French poster styles of the 1920s and letting his characters eyes work their magic in terms of expression. The lack of lines make the expanses of the icy wastes seem all the more vast once the film travels north. Also, by simplifying the shapes and the colour palette, textures such as fog and steam have a tactile feel, while specific items, such as a treasured pair of earrings, are lent extra weight.
The earrings belong to 15-year-old Russian Sasha (voice by Christa Théret), a gift from her explorer grandfather who set out on a journey for the North Pole on a state-of-the-art icebreaker. After he fails to return and a hefty award for the return of the ship goes unclaimed, it is presumed lost, but Sasha is not so sure. When her attempts to interest others in a theory of what might have befallen the ship fall on deaf ears - and land her dad in hot water into the bargain - she decides to set out to find it herself.
Her way is tricky from the start, as she gives up her earrings for safe passage only for the ship she was due to depart on to leave early, stranding her on the shoreline. It's all a far cry from her privileged upbringing but she finds a friendly face at a nearby inn and soon shows a willingness to get her hands dirty. Finally, she is able to embark on the expedition, where further tests await.
Chayé and his team put the focus on character, so that we get a sense of what makes the crew of the ship tick, while avoiding the usual cliches as Sasha strikes up a friendship with young shipman Katch (Tom Morton). The blizzards depicted as the ship heads north are a far cry from the soft, swirling snow of Disney. These winds carry icy shards that bite and catch, while the ice floes surrounding the ship also offer a sharp sense of danger. Sasha may have to learn but she is also brave and resourceful, just the sort of heroine films need more of.