The 5 scenes why your daughter should see "Long Way North"
This year's highest-grossing domestic movie is still Finding Dory, which hauled in $486 million in the U.S. alone as part of a worldwide total that was more than $1 billion. Get that money, Ellen DeGeneres! And finally, quite a few animated films this year have had -- shudder at this term -- "strong female characters," from Ginnifer Goodwin's Judy Hopps in Zootopia to Charlize Theron's Monkey in Kubo and the Two Strings.
To that group we can add Sacha from Long Way North, the independent French animated film that has quietly been rolling out in U.S. theaters over the past few weeks. The beautifully hand-drawn animated style, with its color saturation but rejection of heavy outlines for a more natural look, is one of the film's greatest wonders. Although the story is kind of simplistic (Sacha's grandfather, Oloukine, goes missing trying to reach the North Pole; she wants to find him and restore honor to her family), the visuals are stunning.
But the draw here for young girls will be Sacha, who is determined, resolute, and just bratty enough to be likable. The 15-year-old flees her wealthy aristocratic family when they seem willing to bury her grandfather's memory for their own political gain, and filmmaker Rémi Chayé does a good job peppering in little details about Sacha that will make viewers respect her quest.
Small movies like these need all the support they can get, which is why you should seek out Long Way North. Need 5 reasons why you should see this with your daughter, niece, goddaughter, or whoever else? Let's list them in the form of the film's most impactful scenes. (And, if you want to read my whole review for Chesapeake Family, you can do so here.)
Reason 1: How willing she is to break up a ball in her honor to call out the Czar's grumpy nephew on his shit
Seriously, she disrupts HER OWN PARTY to give him crap about his disregard for her grandfather. That takes guts! It also causes a rift between her and her parents that is quite dramatic, so thanks for nothing, Czar's crappy nephew.
Reason 2: She runs away from all this old-school Russian opulence -- balls! fancy jewelry! this great balcony! -- to follow her principles
OK, so maybe that's not the best thing for a teenager to do. But when it's to find your lost grandfather, we can allow some wiggle room, right?
Reason 3: She takes to hard work like a champ -- from peeling potatoes to sassing crusty sailors
Sacha spends part of her journey at a small inn near a port, where she trades work for a place to stay while she waits for a ship to agree to take her to the North Pole. She wakes up early, she peels potatoes effortlessly, and she commands a room of doubtful seamen into agreeing to join her quest for Oloukine. Sacha's got grit. (Uh, this may be some kind of veiled commentary on how labor is purpose ... but we'll leave that vaguely Marxist undertone out of this.)
Reason 4: When a cabin boy with a crush on her reaches out a hand to help her climb up the ship's sails, she refuses -- grabbing the rope on her own instead
Who needs boys when you have yourself? Or, when you have this great dog? Either option sounds good to me. Look at how cute this dog is! Let's encourage kids to be friends to animals before we indoctrinate them regarding romantic love, don't you think?
Reason 5: She reaches the end of her quest -- and keeps looking toward the future
I won't spoil Long Way North for you, but I will say that the movie doesn't end in the "happy" way you would expect for a children's film, and that's a respectable choice. Instead, the movie lets Sacha complete her journey and gain wisdom and closure along the way, allowing her to close the chapter on this one part of her life. That's a strong message to send, and one that will encourage young female viewers to look toward the future, too.