Borealis, at its heart, tells the story of a father’s attempt to reconnect with his daughter, who is on the verge of becoming completely blind. The film is a horse charging across steep hills and stunning valleys, determined even in the face of unresolved anger and exhaustion, saddled with past burdens, tense relationships and heartbreak, and trailed by men who will stop at nothing to claim the debts owed to them.
A powerful film directed by Sean Garrity, Borealis will bring you on a physical and emotional journey to Churchill, Manitoba, and leave you tearing up at the end at the injustice and tragedy of it all.
Primarily a drama, this film is infused with a good balance of humour to keep things lively and real until the very end. While I’m not sure the tension of Tubby, a dubious bookie, chasing Jonah and Aurora to the world’s end was wholly necessary to bring out the fine notes of forgiveness and redemption already evident in the moving father-daughter journey, it definitely succeeded in making the plot more high-stakes, intense, and complicated.
What makes the story real and genuine is that the two main characters are not perfect, and therefore are very human. Borealis represents real family struggles that most people can relate to.
Jonah, the father, is not without his faults. While his ambition to bring his daughter to see the Northern Lights before she can’t see anymore is noble and inspiring, it’s rooted in lies and his own fear of ever having to break the horrible truth to his daughter. The extent of his lies and how they stack on top of each other make you want to smack him in the head from time to time.
The mobsters’ pursuit of Jonah and his daughter further heightens the tension and clouds Jonah’s well-meaning intentions in a shroud of immaturity and irresponsibility, which makes him an agonizing character to appreciate. Yet, you’re still rooting for him until the end, even if only so that Aurora, his daughter, can receive the good parental figure she needs and deserves in her life.
It’s hard not to sympathise with Aurora. A young girl dealt an unfair hand, Aurora finds herself isolated from her peers (especially her insensitive ex-best friend) and living with a painful family loss and a gambling-addicted father. With a life as difficult as hers, Aurora can hardly be blamed for being brusque and angry, but her character also commands respect for her determination and fierce independence. These are simply characters that make you care for them as if they were real people. Borealis is a solid film built on a solid base of strong writing, impressive protagonists, and capable acting.
Aurora Borealis. Ribbons of elusive, beautiful lights across the Northern night skies; wandering spirits of nature traipsing across the world’s dark canvas. People spend their whole lives chasing these colourful wonders. I went to see Borealis because of its name, but I stayed for the story, and I loved it for the tender lullaby of humanity it sung.