Where most post-Shrek animated films are manic and all too eager to please, Rémi Chayé’s deliberately paced Long Way North tells its story with clarity and an urgent calm.
Young Sasha is the granddaughter of a nineteenth-century Russian who never returned from a voyage to the North Pole — now she believes she’s discovered the alternative route he took. Unable to convince the government to renew the search for him, she runs away to mount an expedition of her own. Sasha’s an appealing hero, doggedly enlisting a crew to find her grandfather’s lost vessel, but her actions and efforts (and those of the crew) are refreshingly human-scale, without cartoonish amplification.
Chayé’s dialogue has a storybook quality: a little stilted and on its sleeve, but direct. The animation has a similar simplicity, but yields greater rewards. Hand-drawn and presented without outlines, its world is delineated by color and shape alone.
The artistry is at its boldest when the landscape is at its most spare. As Sasha journeys north, the frozen surfaces emerge as expanses of pure white, with traces of blue somehow shaping the space into ledges and vast slopes. This icy beauty isn’t all that Sasha hopes to find, but it’s a reason to go just the same.
Long Way North
Directed by Rémi Chayé
Opens September 30, Village East Cinemas