The family film “The Journey Home” was first shown in theaters under the title of “Midnight Sun.” It stars Dakota Goyo who made his mark earlier in the film “Real Steel” with Hugh Jackman.
Filmed in the Canadian Arctic, the movie has some breathtaking scenery of Arctic ice floes, the Aurora Borealis, a massive storm, and wild life surviving the freezing cold of the north. Dakota’s co-star, Pizu (meaning Vagabond) is certainly a scene-stealer, and is bound to appeal to young children as he bonds with his friend Luke (Dakota Goyo).
Polar Bears - Wikimedia
Luke appears to be about 14 years old, an age when parental guidance is not easily accepted. The opening scenes show Luke and his mother (Bridget Moynihan) hassling about Luke taking off in his Ski-Doo without permission. His mother is a widow who works on a whale project in the far north, a job that her deceased husband did before he was fatally injured in an accident on duty.
Luke’s mother (who was never given a name in the film) is obliged be away from home frequently with her job and Aunt Rita (Linda Kash) comes to stay with Luke and his sister Abbie (Kendra Timmins) on those occasions. One evening while playing outdoors Luke came across a mother polar bear searching for food in their yard. Aunt Rita was frightened and called Animal Control which came and tranquilized the polar bear before taking it away. Luke begged them not to tranquilize her as she was only looking for food. They took her anyway, with the warning to keep all seeds, trash and food out of reach. They used a helicopter to transfer her to a Polar Bear Holding Facility before transporting her to her home on Cape Resolute.
Luke Discovers the Bear Cub
When the authorities left, Luke discovered a polar bear cub in the garage, separated from its mother, and brought him up to his room while Aunt Rita slept. The next morning, Aunt Rita was alarmed to find the bear cub sleeping with Luke in his bedroom. Luke explained that he wanted to help the cub to be reunited with his mother. Bear cubs learn everything from their mother, and so they cannot survive in the wild without the lessons they learn from her. Aunt Rita suggested that he call Muktuk (Goran Visnjic), a handsome man with Inuit blood who was given his nickname by his Inuit friends. Muktuk knew the territory better than anyone around and would be happy to help. Muktuk was Luke’s father’s friend and was with him when the accident occurred. It was believed by everyone that Mukluk failed his colleague when the ice broke. Muktuk never wanted to discuss it.
As Luke had already started out, Muktuk followed Luke’s tracks in a separate Ski-Doo as they traveled toward Cape Resolute where the polar bears made their home. The scenes depicted were awesome, as the ice parted in some sections and ice floes separated from the main land.
Ski-Doo Snowmobile - Wikimedia
An Accident Occurs
Luke and Pizu found themselves on an ice floe that cracked and they were no longer connected with the territory that Muktuk was following. Luke’s Ski-Doo landed in the water, leaving him without transportation. He had only some sweets in his backpack which he was able to ration out with Pizu as they waited to be discovered.
The scenes with Luke and Pizu together are heart-rending as the bear cub bonds with Luke, snuggles up to his legs, looks for food in his pocket, and jumps for joy as they play and romp. Kudos to Dakota Goyo for his fearlessness in playing with his new friend and demonstrating that trait to the youngsters who would view the film.
As Muktuk tried unsuccessfully to reach Luke, Luke came upon some drunken hunters who had a plane. They offered to get Luke to civilization if he would give them the cub, which Luke declined. They would only sell the cub for the money, and Luke refused to be separated from Pizu.
Arctic Ice Floes - Wikimedia
A Storm is Brewing
Meanwhile, Aunt Rita had spoken on the phone with Luke’s mother who was frantic to know that Luke and Muktuk had started out on such a journey. A storm was brewing and could be dangerous for anyone out in the wild. It is unrealistic to believe that a 14-year-old would take on such a task without appearing to have fear or to break down crying. The viewer can feel the tension that is brewing.
At this point, Luke had managed to move from the ice floe to a mainland of sorts as the floe drifted. He and Pizu both jumped over successfully. Unfortunately, Luke left his red backpack on the ice floe, and was without any kind of sustenance or tool. His red backpack could be seen from the air, but he was not where the backpack was now.
It was Pizu who discovered what is known as a pressure ridge, which is actually a cave where the two could seek shelter and perhaps a little warmth. It was while they slept that a helicopter went overhead and they were nowhere in sight.
Caribou Meat and Eggs
It is a practice of the Inuits to leave food buried in the snow in isolated areas. Luke came upon such a phenomenon while walking with Pizu. As he dug down into the caribou meat which would give them a meal, a frozen dead body came to light. It made Luke sick to his stomach, and he was getting weaker. Further on, he found a bird’s nest in the snow with three eggs. He ate the yolks from two of them and shared the third with Pizu. He had just a small amount of the sweets left.
Luke then discovered a boat which was buried in the snow. This would be their way out, he knew. He released the boat and he and Pizu started off for Cape Resolute which they could see in the distance. However, the boat sprang a leak and was slowly filling with water. An Inuit family came upon them near the shore and brought them into their tents. Luke was told not to go to sleep, but he did and two of the young girls snuggled with him to give him some bodily warmth. He survived.
Muktuk had turned back when his search turned out to be futile. He contacted Luke’s mother in the wild and the two were able to get a helicopter to take them towards Cape Resolute where Luke would be heading.
Aurora Borealis - Wikimedia
The story ends well. There are no surprises. A poignant scene occurred when Pizu spotted his mother and ran towards her and embraced her, jumping for joy. I was hoping for some sort of romantic interest to occur between Luke’s mother and Muktuk, but it did not happen. However, a conversation ensued in which Luke’s mother contradicted Aunt Rita as she accused Muktuk of abandoning her brother. Luke’s mother said that Muktuk was with her; he was not with her husband Victor who had made the mistake of leading the researchers onto bad ice. Mukluk wanted his family to remember him as a hero, so he had never told the true story.
The one message that the film seemed to be sending was the fact that parents must realize that their children are capable of so much more than they believe, and those children should be allowed to spread their wings and be allowed to ease into adulthood without recrimination from their parents. The film, to me, was both entertaining and educational.