Movie Review: Long Way North (Tout en haut du monde)

Sacha travels to the extremes of northern Russia to find her grandfather in "Long Way North."

Sacha travels to the extremes of northern Russia to find her grandfather in “Long Way North.”

Worthwhile animated entertainment is always in short supply, so it’s great to see something meaningful like “Long Way North” come along. This French-Danish production may be good enough for an Academy Award nomination. And, it’s certainly worth your time and attention if you enjoy animation.

“Long Way North” is the story of Sacha in 19th century Saint Petersburg. She longs to be an explorer like her famous grandfather, who went missing on his attempt to find the North Pole. The Russian aristocracy is ready to forget about Oloukine and his expensive expedition to nowhere, but Sacha is convinced that her beloved grandfather is still alive.

After a falling out with her father over her straightforwardness with the prince, Sacha leaves her expensive home in search of Oloukine and his ship. It’s a seemingly impossible task, but the way the narrative is presented, you just have to believe that somehow Sacha is right and she’ll succeed. The story and the delicate minimalist style of the animators are the two best things going for “Long Way North.”

The animation is subdued and dramatic. Don’t ask me to explain that please. The colors are sometimes quite pale, but lovely. And, the warmth of the story is quite an offset to the harshness of northern Russia. I suppose this is a film about opposites. It certainly charmed my soul and choked me up at the end.

The only tic against the film is the English translation and voice cast. When I saw bits of the movie in the original French language, I realized that perhaps it should be exhibited here in French as well, using English subtitles. The British voice cast is fine, but I’m guessing that adults had some of the juvenile roles. When “Long Way North” arrives on home video, I will definitely watch the French version.

In the meantime, this is a film you want to see at theaters if you can find it. Take the family and enjoy. Grade: A-

"Long Way North," a French-Danish film about a teenaged girl searching for her grandfather is worth catching.

“Long Way North,” a French-Danish film about a teenage girl searching for her grandfather is worth catching.