Sasha’s grandfather was a Russian explorer looking for a new route to the North Pole when his ship went missing and he was presumed dead. After losing her grandfather, Sasha slipped into the contented life that being the daughter of Russian aristocrats necessitates. She attended balls, danced with princes, and tried to suppress anything bold or adventurous in herself as to not shame her parents. Everything changes when she finds some map coordinates her grandfather had scribbled onto a piece of paper and convinces her that he took an alternate route to the pole and that’s why no one has been able to recover his ship from the icy north. So sure is she that she can find the ship and maybe even her crew that she runs away from the comforts of her home to get as far north as she can before hiring a ship to help retrace her grandfather’s steps.
At first, watching the film, I thought the animation was a little dull and lazy, and I don’t know if I grew to appreciate it over time or if it actually got better. Even the latter works for me because it would serve as a metaphor for Sasha finding herself in this adventure and her boring old life taking on new depth and color. After a while, I grew to appreciate how minimal the animation was. It wasn’t completely clean or fluid, but it made everything that I did see feel more purposeful. You mix that in with the increasingly vibrant color and settings and it made the movie more and more visually stunning to look at.
I also really like the Sasha character as she dives into her adventure without knowing exactly how she’s going to pull it off. She is forced to learn and adapt to the inevitable problems that arise throughout her journey. A favorite section of the film to me is when Sasha is trapped in a fishing village in the far north, broke and hopeless and the owner of the local tavern offers her a room if she’ll work for it, and through a montage several minutes long, you see Sasha grow to learn a variety of skills and a work ethic her previous life never expected from her. It’s really wonderful how it’s all put together, and as far as the plot, gives her time to prepare her argument for why a particular captain of a particular ship should allow her to come aboard and why they should all go looking for her grandfather’s ship together.
Sasha continues to grow as a character, adapt to new problems, and drive herself right to the brink of breaking, but her determination to discover exactly what happened to her grandfather is awesome and inspiring. Long Way North is a real treat for the eye and the soul.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Shout Factory on January 17.