Animated / Family
81 minutes / 2015
It’s the 1880s, the North Pole has yet to be reached, and a Russian explorer dreams of doing so. But when his expedition disappears, along with his unsinkable ice-breaking ship, the Russian Tsar offers a million rubles for anyone who can find them. Noone does.
Two years later, the explorer’s 15-year-old granddaughter, Sasha, discovers his notes and realizes that everyone has been searching in the wrong area. When she can’t convince anyone to listen – and when her prodding angers a Russian prince and harms her family’s social status – Sasha steals away on her own to discover what really happened. With the lure of the Tsar’s reward, Sasha manages to convince an icebreaking ship to take her on board.
Sasha is the only one who knew where her grandfather’s ship is; all the adults should have listened to her! This “the kid knows best” is a staple in children’s movies. but fortunately it isn’t pushed all that hard here. And Sasha is also shown being rescued by adults who are cleary wiser in these other areas.
The only other caution concerns [SPOILER ALERT] the moment when Sasha finds her grandfather. He’s dead, his body frozen and looking more ice sculpture than corpse, so it isn’t all that scary. And it’s almost as if everyone knew he couldn’t still be alive, so the scene is sad, but not weepy.
This is a sweet story about a granddaughter’s love and respect for her grandfather. What makes it unique is the hand-drawn animation, and the starkly beautiful arctic landscapes. This French/Danish production is drawn in an often lineless form – a carriage in the distance is just a block of color – that’s very different from anything you’re familiar with.
While the first 15 minutes might test the patience of some younger viewers, the director’s leisurely pacing gives the barren ice and waves and wind time to entrance us. This could be a wonderful family film for a quiet night when the snow is blowing up against your own front door.