This lovely movie makes you realize that a poignancy of our time is that few adults would take the time to attend to an unessential miracle.
It may be true that the great strength of "Fly Away Home" lies more in what it doesn't do than in what it does. While the movie flies wildly free with its story, director Carroll Ballard and his actors give the audience members plenty of room to generate their own emotions by refusing to tell them what to feel. Together, they have spun a beautiful tale.
After the death of her mother, 13-year-old Amy (Anna Paquin) leaves her New Zealand life to reconnect with her absentee father, Tom (Jeff Daniels). In a studio/home in the Ontario wilderness, Tom builds fanciful animal sculptures while fighting developers who have targeted his land. The cardboard villainy of the bulldozers is the one weak link in the picture.
When the lonely Amy discovers a nest of goose eggs orphaned by the bulldozer blade, she collects them and protects them until they hatch. The motherless girl will mother these babies, and it's no easy job. Since geese follow the first living thing they see after birth, Amy has an instant crowd and a raft of problems on her hands. If geese learn everything from their parents, who will teach them to migrate once they decide to fly?
Amy and her dad, of course, and no less. Urgency is created by the coming of fall and the sudden interference of the young wildlife bureaucrat who decides to disable the geese for their own good. He becomes the real villain of the piece with his refusal to recognize that an exception to his rules would be a victory for nature.
It's at this point that photographer Caleb Deschanel's beautiful chronicle of the gosling's growth lifts the movie way out of the ordinary. The actors, by playing their parts with great restraint, give Deschanel the whole outdoors for his canvas, and he responds with breathtaking photography of the birds and the plane that is teaching them how to fly south.
Jeff Daniels pours his quirky enthusiasm into inventing the wonderful plane that will fly as lead goose. Anna Paquin quietly shows Amy's steely resolve to save her flock as well as her unbridled joy in the role of protector. Neither Daniels nor Paquin resorts to pulling heartstrings. They appear believably and absolutely caught up in their mission. Someone here had the great wisdom to concentrate on Amy, Tom, and their birds. And Paquin and Daniels very sweetly give center stage to the geese.
This leaves the audience members free--and a great gift this is--to be moved from within their own experiences. This lovely movie makes you realize that a poignancy of our time is that few adults would take the time to attend to an unessential miracle. Life offers up all kinds of parenting alternatives, and this movie reminds us, wonderfully, that whether it is a child, a mother, a father, or geese, all creatures need someone to go to unreasonable lengths for them.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Columbia Pictures
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h50m
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