Review: ‘Long Way North’ a story of dream fulfilled

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Special to The Detroit News

Sasha is the kind of bold and intrepid heroine more animated films need.

At just 14, she sets out to learn her grandfather’s fate and restore the family’s good name in the visually stunning French film “Long Way North,” which premieres Friday at Cinema Detroit.

She’s blond and beautifully drawn — think Gwyneth Paltrow minus the smirk — and fun to root for when she runs away from home after her aristocratic parents attempt to arrange a marriage for her in 19th century Russia. Sasha (voiced by Chloe Dunn in the English-language version), on the other hand, is much more interested in finding her stately and beloved grandfather, an explorer named Olukine (Geoffrey Greenhill), who led an expedition to the Arctic and never returned.

There are a few initial pitfalls involving travel and income, but Sasha eventually gets her wish and fearlessly sets sail on a ship full of skeptical men who don’t trust her or her research. None of this deters Sasha, who is met with even more challenges and a romantic rumination or two before she reaches her goal. This sends the undeniable message, particularly to little girls watching, that you must never give up on your dreams.

Director Remi Chaye (“The Secret of Kells”) and screenwriter Claire Paoletti drew inspiration from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and diary entries when crafting the historically fictional and culturally fascinating story behind “Long Way North.” The close bond between Sasha and her grandfather is also beautifully conveyed.

Chaye’s aesthetically beguiling use of color and outline-free drawings further help audiences get lost in this world full of salmon-pink sunsets and aggressively white snow gusts. It is no wonder this film won the Annecy International Animated Film Festival audience award and the grand prize at the Tokyo Anime Award festival.

Unfortunately, the perfunctory dialogue isn’t as enchanting as the optics or the tale; at times, it sounds like the actors would rather read a lunch menu. Perhaps this is the downside of English dubbing.

All in all, “Long Way North” is an ocularly gratifying film with a feminist message that is easy to embrace.

Mekeisha Madden Toby is a Los Angeles-based critic and entertainment writer.

‘Long Way North’


Rated PG for peril and mild language

Running time: 81 minutes

Cinema Detroit

4126 Third, Detroit