Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Long Way North (2016) Animation First 2021

With THE LONG WAY NORTH playing Animation First as a companion to the director's film CALAMITY about Calamity Jane here is my review of the earlier film from when it played at the New York Children's Film Festival in 2016

Sacha, the heroine of THE LONG WAY NORTH is a spiritual sister to all of the great Studio Ghibli heroines. Her adventures destined to be one of the most talked about films at this years New York International Children's Film Festival because it is such so damn good,

Sacha is the daughter of a Count and Countess in St Petersburg Russia in 1882. Her grandfather is a great arctic explorer looking for a route to the North Pole. After he goes missing and is presumed dead Sacha discovers papers leading her to believe that the rescue parties had been looking in the wrong place. Running away from home she heads out to find a ship which will take her to her grandfather.

Though running only 80 minutes this film has more adventure than almost two other similar films combined. Firmly rooted in reality the adventures of Sacha are such that my the time they end you'll feel as though you've gone North towards the pole and back again.

Stretching from the homes and libraries of Petersberg, through the country side and a across the sea and the ice LONG WAY NORTH is film that never stops pushing forward. There is nary a wasted moment. Things happen constantly, from being left behind by a ship, storms at sea and some hairy adventures on the ice this film. There are some truly amazing set pieces, plus a dark turn or two that make you genuinely fear for everyone's safety. Will Sacha get home? Perhaps, but its not certain, nor is it certain anyone else will either.

A beautiful wide screen film this film is best seen as big as possible. I am envious of those of you seeing this on the huge screens at the SVA theater during the NYICFF since this film is going to suck you in and draw you along in a way that few animated films ever have done.

The characters are all beautifully drawn. These are for the most part real characters, even if they remain a bit too civil when the poop hits the fan.

Sacha is a wonderful heroine. Head strong and sure of her self. She is the sort of character I want to show young girls, especially my niece, as an example of a strong young woman who strives to do what she knows is right and what she feels she must. She is the a heroine whose sisters live at from Studio Ghibli's and are named Nausicaa, Mononoke, Chihiro, and Sophie.

The great part of her character isn’t the strength it’s the perseverance. Sacha keeps at it and doesn’t get discouraged. More importantly where the great Studio Ghibli films or the recent spate of Disney films will give their heroines one thing to overcome, here director Rémi Chayé gives her a boat load- she has to contend with her parents and society in St Petersburg, the set back of the ship leaving without her, having to learn to be a waitress, to have to deal with life on the ship, and then the potential life ending problems on the ice. Sacha doesn’t have one or two things to conquer, she has everything to beat- and she does it despite breaking down. Repeatedly we watch as she effectively curls up in a ball and cries herself to sleep, and yet every time she picks herself up and goes for it and she manages to be both certain and uncertain- “yes I have to do this- but I could be wrong and people will die”. I absolutely love that we have this example of a woman, nay human being, who keeps going despite getting having the crap kicked out of her physically and emotionally. I love that we have this wonderful example that hard work and sticking to one’s guns will pay off. This is a fully drawn and very human character, and possibly one of my favorite ones in any film, animated or live action.

LONG WAY NORTH is amazingly great. It’s an incredibly solid adventure film with a kick ass heroine. Its meatier than almost any live action similar film of recent vintage. It’s a film we kind of need to show little girls so they go out and do the great things of which they are capable.

Its also one of my favorite films of 2016.

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