Long Way North directed by Rémi Chayé
Shout Factory Films
Opens in NYC and at Laemmle Pasadena and Laemmle Santa Monica on September 30
The feature debut by French animator Rémi Chayé has notched a few well deserved awards,
including the Grand Prize and the Governor of Tokyo Award at Tokyo Animation Festival 2016. Easy to see why, as it's different, in
remarkably subtle ways. If possible, let's say there's a tranquil excitement coloring this excellent hand-drawn animated film, which looks at an interesting bit of history and does so with an evocative simplicity, in visual presentation and in score / sound design.
Set in the late 19th-century Saint Petersburg, the story concerns a young girl named
Sacha who is of the Russian aristocracy. Sacha daydreams about the Great North and wonders about the return of her grandfather,
an Arctic explorer who has disappeared during an expedition to find a route to the North Pole. Defying her parents, Sacha runs away
from home in search of her grandfather and his ship.
Sacha's adventures with her crusty, begrudging shipmates amid the frozen seas,
towering icebergs and inhospitable polar bears of the wild, windy North are sufficiently edge-of-your-seat, nicely action-packed
scenes not too crowded with the characters' blustery salty-sailor talk or young person's morose musings on the meaning of life.
It is a gently politically correct version of the standard "uplifting saga of aspiration and resilience against all odds," this time really
all the more inspiring for its calm insistence that what a boy can do, a girl can do, too, and arguably with a tad more resourcefulness
and presence of mind.
Your primary satisfaction in viewing Long Way North might derive from
the seductive, blood-pressure-lowering tone
(wonderful shadows and light) of its minimal cut-out-shapes visual design, its lightly chilled non-pop-song
musical score, and the oddly literal quietude of the sound design, wherein it's just the sound of the wind and the waves that tells the tale.
ŠŠ John Payne