Don’t be blind to a great new piece of Canadian cinema

The race against time starts after this visit to the optometrist. Photo still from movie.

This feature-length film’s impactful narrative and cinematic execution are worth your attention

On Sept. 5, the Canadian film Borealis premiered as part of the Montreal World Film Festival at Cinema Quartier Latin.

The race against time starts after this visit to the optometrist. Photo still from movie.
The race against time starts after this visit to the optometrist. Photo still from movie.

The movie follows Jonah, a man plagued by both a gambling addiction and past tragedy, as he attempts to aid and reconnect with his teenage daughter, Aurora. Aurora is a pot fiend who is distant and estranged from her father, but the dyed-hair teenager only has a month before an eye condition will render her completely blind. In an attempt to get Aurora to see the glory of the northern lights before she loses her vision, while also running away from a hefty gambling debt, Jonah takes her on a road trip from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba. The film holds both a race against time and a flight from a violent bookie who is determined to get what he is owed by Jonah.

As all good stories should, the film reveals truths and aspects of the human experience, and the struggles that come with navigating relationships and inner battles. It is a narrative about vices and reacting to the tragedies, hardships, and curveballs that life throws at every one of us.

Jonas Chernick and Joey King bring to life a father-daughter relationship that holds tensions, hurt, and a push-and-pull struggle that is all too common and relatable to many teenage-parent relationships.

When asked about the process of cultivating a relationship with his co-star, Joey King, Chernick explained that once he met King in person, the bond was almost instantaneous. From teaching her to play cards to rolling fake joints for the film, Chernick was able to bond before the two set off to create the film’s impactful father-daughter dynamic.

The screenplay was largely written by Chernick, who plays the role of Jonah in the film.

At the beginning of this movie’s inception, Sean Garrity, the director, pitched an idea to Chernick and the ending of that pitch was powerful enough that it convinced him that the story needed to be told. This was a unique project where Chernick was able to start with an ending and work backwards to craft the story and develop the characters, swimming against his usual creative current. When asked about his choice to set the story in Winnipeg, his hometown, or Canada on a wider scale, Chernick expressed that he is a big fan of Canadian cinema and that to him, as a Canadian, it was a natural choice.

Aurora embodies what it is to be a broken, yet stubborn, teenager. However, her character’s dynamic quality emerges from her unfortunate past and the tragedy progressing in her present. She entices sympathy out of each theatre-goer as one witnesses her vision gradually slip away. It’s a condition that is hard to watch anyone go through, no less a young person with so much of the world left to see. Furthermore, the damaging realities of battling addiction are also portrayed as viewers observe Jonah’s struggle against the hold the game of cards has on him throughout the film.

The narrative’s themes of redemption and reconciliation leave hope reverberating around the room after the film has reached its end. With both skillful cinematic execution and a narrative that much can be drawn from, Borealis is worth considering for your next movie night.

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