Long Way North

 

starstarstarstar

 

 

No famous names are involved but this is a very appealing animated feature.

 

Long Way North

 

For Rémi Chayé, this feature, a co-production between France and Denmark, is a major step forward. He has been involved in animation for more than a decade and in 2009 assisted Tomm Moore in the direction of The Spirit of Kells. Moore went on to make the acclaimed Song of the Sea (2014) and Chayé has now given us Long Way North as sole director. His link with Moore makes it unsurprising that he is an animator who works in a traditional style without much recourse to CGI. Initially the faces in Long Way North may look a bit wooden, but it is soon evident that they are genuinely expressive and not least in the case of the film’s heroine, Sacha, who is 15-years-old.

 

Giving voice to Sacha in the version being screened here is Chloé Dunn and a subtitled alternative is not available, but happily the dubbing has been discreetly handled and the film soon engages us. It starts in St. Petersburg in 1882 and it is here that we encounter the aristocratic Sacha whose grandfather had died in a bid to reach the North Pole. The valuable ship of which he had been captain has gone missing, but Sacha believes that it can be recovered and sets out to do just that in order to redeem her family’s honour.

 

Despite her background, Sacha is a heroine for today, spirited and determined and ready to do menial work in an inn when circumstances require it. Before long she finds a captain, Lund, ready to set sail with her knowing that there is a reward for recovery of the lost vessel. The rivalry with Lund on the part of his brother Larson adds an extra plot thread, as does Sacha’s growing rapport with Katch the young bosun although the only kiss the film allows him is to give her the kiss of life.

 

Long Way North boasts an original screenplay and much of its appeal lies in the way that it evokes the pleasures that tales of adventure have always given to children. Long Way North catches you up as Treasure Island once did, and such scenes as a storm at sea and the arrival of Lund’s ship in the ice fields are visual highlights. Meanwhile Jonathan Morali’s adept music score yields at times to admirably atmospheric sound effects. One question does hover over Long Way North, but it is one for parents rather than critics. A period tale like this may today appeal more to younger than to older children and I was surprised to find the film’s second half taking on a darkness that put me in mind of Scott of the Antarctic. I wondered if this would disturb the very young. However, today’s young people may well take this in their stride.
 
MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Voices of Chloé Dunn, Peter Hudson, Antony Hickling, Tom Perkins, Claire Harrison-Bullett, Tom Morton, Geoffrey Greenhill, Vivienne Vermes.

 

Dir Rémi Chayé, Pro Ron Dyens and Henri Magalon, Screenplay Fabrice de Costil from an original screenplay by Claire Paoletti and Patricia Valeix, Graphic Design Rémi Chayé, Ed Benjamin Massoubre, Music Jonathan Morali, Dir of Animation Liane-Cho Han.

 

A Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies production/2 Minutes/France 3 Cinéma/Danish Film Institute etc.- Soda Pictures.
81 mins. France/Denmark. 2015. Rel: 17 June 2016. Cert. PG.