Long Way North (2016)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: January 17, 2017)
"Long Way North" is elegant and inspiring, a French-Danish animated adventure with a compelling story and a progressive dose of female empowerment rooted deep in its bones. The heroine of the piece is 15-year-old Sacha (voice of Christa Théret), suffocated by her parents' status-obsessed aristocracy in 1882 Saint Petersburg. The Arctic search for her missing explorer grandfather, Oloukine (Féodor Atkine), has been called off, but, when Sacha stumbles upon coordinates that may be the answer to his ship's whereabouts, she becomes determined to find itand him. Her trek reaching this destination is far from a straight line, and oft perilous, testing her courage and determination as she grows from child to adult.
"Long Way North" looks and feels like a passion project, director Rémi Chayé, screenwriters Claire Paoletti and Patricia Valeix, and all the film's artists bringing love and care to every frame of the gloriously drawn, computer-assisted animation. A touch quieter and more introspective than most American-made, studio-produced animated movies, the film should engage all viewers without it ever feeling as if it's targeting a specific demographic. It's also not nearly as predictable, leading Sacha toward a key unexpected discovery and a deeper connection to her lost grandfather. "Long Way North" is ultimately hopeful even as it fully acknowledges life's fallibility, a hopeful fable that sees a future for its teenage protagonist as limitless as her aspirations will take her.
Released by the ever-reliable Shout! Factory, "Long Way North" cuts a lovely figure from its immaculate 1080p transfer. Clean as fine crystal, this high-definition transfer offers bold colors, sharp lines, and appreciable depth (an early scene where snow blows toward the screen approaches the appearance of three dimensions). Not a single issue could be detected by my eyeno judder, no aliasing, no banding, no DNR. This is a beautiful visual presentation. Two audio options are offered: a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, as well as a 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio. Both are top-notch and virtually identical save for the dialogue; the French audio features the original voices with optional English subtitles, while the English includes the dubbed voices. This being an animated feature, never is the dubbing apparent, and the English-speaking actors are excellent. From creaks of the ship's mast to the strong, stormy gusts of wind and snow, the sound design capably transports the viewer into its lush, frequently teeth-chattering settings. Music bursts fully throughout one's home theater, aiding in the immersion.
- "The Making of Long Way North" Featurette (38:56, HD)
- Conceptual Short (2:04, HD)
- Interview with director Remi Chaye and producer Henri Magalon (29:53, HD)
- Still Gallery Character Design (4:09, HD)
- Still Gallery Concept Art (2:28, HD)
- Animatics (3:28, HD)
"Long Way North" snuck into limited theatrical release in September and is deserving of more attention than it received. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray is superb on all fronts, from the top-shelf A/V presentation to over an hour's worth of informative, quality special features. Young, older or in between, if you are an animated enthusiast, this is a sensitive, thoughtful, entertaining feature worth seeking out. That it is arriving on home video in the middle of winter makes it even more apropos. "Long Way North" comes highly recommended on Blu-ray.