Long Way North Review

long-way-north2For the most part the 2016 animated blockbusters have been excellent. Even the middle tier films like Storks and Secret Life of Pets weren’t half bad. That said, I wish I could convince more people to enjoy the equally strong indie animated scene of 2016. We have had great films like April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday (which grows on me more I see it), Miss Hokusai Phantom Boy and now Long Way North!

Directed by Rémi Chayé, Long Way North, is like nothing else you will see this year in animation. It is a small 2D animated adventure that uses color blocking to create a unique visual style.

long-way-north5Rémi said about the style:

“What interests me is the emotion. I want animators to spend time on the characters’ emotions. I don’t want them to spend time tracing details or pulleys. That’s why the graphic style is so simple. No buttons, no laces, no folds in the clothes. So for the ship, the train, the dog sleds, the carriages, we made 3D objects”

This was so beautiful to watch!

The story is set in 1882 Russia where a girl named Sacha is worried about her grandfather who left for the North Pole and never returned. His failed expedition has become a joke and her family is disgraced. She then sets out on an expedition to find her grandfather and redeem her family name.

Adobe Photoshop PDFMy favorite part of the story was Sacha as a character. She is a strong female character but not in a cliched way. She has diva moments where she doesn’t want to let go of her aristocratic ways and I liked that. She felt human and was fallible and grew over the course of the movie.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-the-northI also liked once they got to the North Pole how things didn’t play out exactly the way I thought they would. Honestly I could have spent even more time there as the adventure really got going then.

long-way-north-still-3-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-a-scene-from-long-way-northThe animation is stunning. I loved, loved, loved, loved it. There was a roughness to the lines and a brightness to the color palate that was so refreshing and beautiful. I think Rémi is right. The simplicity did help me to focus on the emotion of the scenes and Sacha as a character. It’s funny with everything trying to be realistic these days (ala Jungle Book) I get much more emotional truth out of animation like this that is mostly shape and color.

I also really enjoyed the music by Jonathan Morali and a rock band called Syd Matters. It felt modern but as Sacha was a modern voice in this world it worked for me.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-and-katch-voiced-by-tom-perkins-set-sailUnfortunately, there were some negatives to Long Way North. I love a good adventure story but some will find Sacha’s story to be predictable.  This wasn’t a big problem for me but I do think they could have introduced more conflict earlier to make it a bit more interesting. For example, it does not take the narrative risks that April and the Extraordinary World takes.

Also I think the middle segment in the boat lasts a bit too long and I got a little bit bored (also that section was the least visually interesting in my opinion). Once they get to the North Pole it picks back up again and I was engaged.


Even with a few issues, I think it is a very strong feature film for Rémi Chayé and he and his 2D animated team deserve tons of applause. Long Way North is a 100% European production with a studio in Paris of 20 animators, 15 layout artists and 20 cel painters and the staff is equally male and female (how refreshing is all of that!). I love what they produced here and can’t wait to see what comes next!

We need independent visually unique voices in animation so I hope you will seek out films like Long Way North and give them your support. Don’t be surprised if you hear about this one come Oscar season!

Overall Grade- B+ (I’ve gone back and forth between B and B+ but it is so pretty I will go with B+)

19 thoughts on “Long Way North Review

    1. I think one of the GKIDS releases will knowing their track record. Miss Hokusai may be the most likely although April and the Extraordinary World is also plausible. My Life as a Zucchini comes out next month but that may get nominated as best foreign film. I could see them getting 2 nominations like GKIDS got last year

      1. Interesting picks. Here are mine:

        Kubo and the Two Strings
        My Life as a Zucchini
        The Red Turtle

        Oscar nominations are announced this Tuesday (Jan 24th)!

      2. Yeah my views have changed a bit since October. I dont know if I even knew about Red Turtle and Your Name then. I’m hopeful for Your Name but if I was a betting woman I would have same picks as you. They are all great so no complaints from me if they are

      3. If it were just me and not what I think will be nominated I would pick-
        Your Name, Red Turtle, Moana, Kubo and the 2 Strings and Zootopia

  1. This just came out on DVD Tuesday (Jan 17th). I remembered this review and watched it tonight. It was OK. The animation is colorful, though unspectacular. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the preliminary work Disney does before they arrive at the finished product. I appreciated the simplicity though and it has a very deliberate pace to which I responded favorably. I found this very unique amongst the fast-paced narrative structure of most animated films. B-

    “Don’t be surprised if you hear about this one come Oscar season!” <—Really? Sorry, but that would really shock me.

    1. I appreciated the animation styling with the rough lines and color blocking but it’s certainly a less polished style than we get from Disney or Pixar (which is refreshing to me at least). I’m glad you could appreciate the simplicity of it.
      A B- is fair for this film. It’s funny I liked it most for the animation and the characters where you liked it most for the story. I can see your point though. It does have a deliberate pace and narrative structure. I guess I was wrong about it having Oscar chances but it is just such a strong year! I think in other years it would have. It’s certainly as strong as last year’s Boy and the World that got nominated as well other indie nominated films like Chico and Rita.
      Thanks for reading my review and for supporting indie animation. It was neat that I got to interview the director of this film. You might find it interesting. http://www.rotoscopers.com/2016/10/21/remi-chaye-interview-director-of-long-way-north/

      1. You misread my comment. The pacing is not the story, just the way that it unfolds. I found the plot and the animation were both equally primitive. When I said I appreciated the simplicity I was talking about the animation.

        Every year there are movies that take the place of more deserving candidates. In a lesser year, I could imagine this getting a nomination.

      2. Oh ok. Fair enough. That makes sense. I do like that the academy champions small indie animated films each year. That’s awesome 🙂

      1. April and probably Star Trek Beyond were probably the movies we differed most on in 2016. Agree?

      2. Yeah true. I forgot it almost made your list when we did our indie podcast.

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