Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I'll be honest. When this came out at the theater I was not that interested. Sure, the little girl from the Piano was a great actress but it just didnt look all that good to me. A girl with some geese. But oh my, it is so much more than that!

The story is actually kind of human interest story since it deals with loss, love, and loyalty in addtion to the aforementioned geese. Caroll Ballard is a master at this type of movie. Even though his films are few and far between, they almost always strike a chord with me. Usually the plot revolves around a child who has lost a parent or loved one and ends up forming a deep attachment to some member of the animal kingdom. The odd thing is, this formula has worked so well on at least three occasions. The Black Stallion is a classic. Duma is absolutely gorgeous. And this one works too. It works so beautifully!

Jeff Daniels portrays Tom Alden, a somewhat eccentric metal sculptor/inventor living in Canada with his daughter, Amy-a thirteen year old child w/ whom he has little relationship. Amy was thrust upon him unexpectedly when his ex-wife dies in a car accident and due to their long estrangement, father and daughter know little of each other. While Amy attempts to get used to her father's odd whims and hobbies, Tom continues to find ways to side-step his responsibilities as a single parent. Amy's discovery of a flock of baby geese leads to their eventual reconciliation however, as the two attempt to 'teach' the geese to migrate south following Ultra Lite aircraft.

One of the things that makes this movie so brilliant is the direction itself. Ballard's direction is soothing and precise, using wonderfully placed closeups of Amy and the birds throughout the movie that serve to draw the viewer into their relationship. The scene in which Amy first discovers that the eggs have hatched is moving and sweet. In addition, there are gorgeous views of the Canadian and Eastern American countryside that rival any I've ever seen. Never should a movie lag or meander over moments of dialogue, especially when such spectacular vistas are there for the taking. And Ballard's camera takes full advantage of that fact. But the dialogue that remains is very well done, focusing as it does on Tom and Amy's relationship as well as the developement of a few side characters that become integral to the plot. Terry Kinney, as Tom's brother David, is especially important and adds a few comical moments to the pace of the story.

Acting by Paquin and Daniels is low-key, understated, and very solid. Amy is understandably grieved at the loss of her mother and therefore shuns, at first, the society of her father but the insinuation of their eventual familial relationship is very believeable and touching. Though the plot revolves around Amy and her geese, we never get the impression that she lacks support from her father and indeed he is the one who teaches her to fly. The moments of quiet that make up the meat of the movie are deliberate and consistent but always intriguing. A couple of scenes almost descend into schmaltz and there are a may be a corny line or two but these are almost not worth mentioning.

I think this movie is an absolute gem. There are scenes in it that will always render me misty-eyed and I will always feel warm after watching it. As a family film, it is hard to beat but even as an adult it can be watched again and again w/ out that liscensing child.

My rating: 9/10


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