An outcast and her adopted daughter struggle to survive on the Arctic's frozen tundra.

In “Far North,” an outcast and her adopted daughter struggle to survive on the Arctic’s frozen tundra, but everything changes when a man enters their lives. Helmer Asif Kapadia reunites with most of the team behind his acclaimed debut “The Warrior,” but can’t make that formula work again. Pic’s stunning exteriors look great on the bigscreen, but don’t serve the mythic nature of the story, which cries out for stylization rather than realism. Emphasis on visuals also comes at the expense of character development. Hopes for broad arthouse play seem far-fetched, although the pic should do OK in ancillary.

Set during an unspecified time in the mid-20th century among the reindeer herders of northern Norway, the pic’s principle character is tough Saiva (Michelle Yeoh). Her voiceover during opening moments explains that a Shaman said she was cursed at birth and would bring harm to anyone she loved. Flashbacks reveal how the curse has previously played out.

Saiva and Anja (Michelle Krusiec), a young woman she’s raised since infancy, move from place to place, avoiding other humans. They hunt wild animals for meat and apparently sew their own clothing from skins. In the evening, Saiva combs Anja’s hair while Anja rubs her feet; they cuddle together in bed at night.

When Saiva see a man, Loki (Sean Bean), collapse on the tundra, she ignore her own advice to Anja about what to do with strangers (i.e., slit their throats). Instead, she nurses him back to health.

But Loki’s capable masculine presence in their cozy tent soon makes the two females compete for his attention and physical affection, setting the stage for a terrible act of revenge. Climax requires a suspension of disbelief the pic doesn’t earn.

If as much care were taken with script as with visuals, pic would have more impact. As it stands, the thinly drawn characters are dwarfed by the magnificent landscapes, and fail to forge an emotional connection with auds.

Of the thesps, rugged-looking Bean comes off best in his underwritten part. Krusiec brings distractingly 21st-century rhythms to her role, while Yeoh’s not shown to her best advantage, particularly in flashback scenes. The pic’s essentially a three-hander; supporting characters are limited to a few lines.

The tech package, led by Roman Osin’s spectacular outdoor lensing, is strong.

Far North

U.K. - France

Production

An Ingenious Film Partners, Film 4, Celluloid Dreams presentation of the Bureau production, in co-production association with PJB Picture Co., Film Camp, Natixis Coficine, in association with Soficinema and Cofinova. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris). Produced by Bertrand Faivre. Executive producers, Tessa Ross, Christophe Vidal, Hengameh Panahi, Duncan Reid, Peter Touche. Co-producers, Petter Borgli, Vincent Gadelle. Directed by Asif Kapadia. Screenplay by Kapadia, Tim Miller, based on the story "True North" by Sara Maitland.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Roman Osin; editor, Ewa Lind; music, Dario Marianelli; art director/costume designer, Ben Scott; sound (Dolby Digital), Andy Shelley, Stephen Griffiths; associate producer, Emma Murphy; casting, Avy Kaufman. Reviewed at the Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 30, 2007. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Krusiec, Sean Bean, Per Egil Aske, Jan Olav Dahl, Espen Prestbakmo, Hakan Niva, Gary Pillai, Bjrarne Osterud.
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