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I got sucked into a movie on the satellite dish the other day, 'Fly
Away Home.' It's a story about a young motherless girl (Amy) who
rescues some wild goose eggs and basically becomes their mother. The
story evolves as the goslings grow into young adult birds ready to fly
south. Since they never had parents the geese haven't learned to fly.
The girl's dad thinks he can get them to fly by following him in his
ultra-light. But they will only follow Amy. So dad teaches her to fly.
Soon the geese are flying. Next, dad and Amy hatch a plot to fly south
and have the geese follow them. We know this actually happened when 2
scientists did something similar.
One of the reasons I was sucked into this wonderful family movie was the photography. It is National Geographic quality. In fact I was so impressed with the cinematography that I had to look up who did it: Caleb Deschanel. The setting, a farm in Southern Ontario, allowed him to become intimate with the geese and the natural setting. Another reason I couldn't stop watching the movie was the stunning performance by Anna Paquin, the 16-year old girl who played Amy. I remembered her from the movie, 'Piano.' She played Flora, the daughter of Holly Hunter. I'm sure they picked Paquin to do that part because of her speaking ability. Holly Hunter played the part of Ada, a woman who couldn't talk. She communicated with sign language through her daughter. Paquin was so good in her part that she won the Oscar, quite a feat for an 11-year old.
The story, 'Fly Away Home' is touching because she's not the kind of Hollywood-trained child actor you find in most movies. A surprising thing happened as I watched Amy and her geese. I could sense a startling serenity from her as the bond had developed between them. I wondered how she could manage that. She was only a 16-year old actress then but she conveyed a mothering instinct that goes back to the ageless beginnings of life on this planet. When the goslings were following her around, much of the photography was from ground level. Later when they were all flying, the photography was right there in the flying formation. You were seeing the birds, in flight, right next to you. The beauty of motion was unbelievable. I thought, 'How could anyone shoot these creatures?' There is beauty in seeing them fly. There is beauty in seeing them in their habitat. But the overwhelming beauty is in their living. They deserved that life. It made me think of this sad planet and the billions of creatures that have died because of the human race. Here was a story that went against the slaughter. When Amy and her birds arrived at their destination in Chesapeake Bay I had misty eyes.
So I'm a soft touch.
I don't have much in the way of feelings so usually stick to science.
An engineer by trade I used to subscribe to a "tecchie" aviation magazine. One issue had this incredible story by some kindly if eccentric Canadian folks who had raised a gaggle of baby geese, and you know the rest. Details of aviation aside, the story warmed my heart. Most Unusual.
A year or so later I took my kids to see "Flyaway Home" expecting a mildly entertaining nature documentary, like Disney's old "Prairie Dog Town" with an aviation twist.
What I saw was a superbly crafted and deeply touching little masterpiece. I was in tears by the end.
Metaphors of kindness aside, this film will touch any heart however hardened or scarred .
And the kids liked it too.
Following Toy Story comes Fly Away Home, another string to the increasingly
large bow of children's films that adults can also enjoy. The story follows
Amy, a 13-year-old New Zealand girl who is forced to live with her estranged
father in Canada following a car crash that kills her mother. Amy becomes
increasingly withdrawn and upset until she finds a collection of similarly
orphaned goslings that she takes care of, nurturing them until they are
ready to migrate to the southern United States.
The film could easily have fallen into the sappy family film' category. However, it never lets itself, choosing to concentrate more on characters than moments. Amy's character, played with breathtaking maturity by Anna Paquin, is better developed and more complex than characters in most films aimed at adults. The supporting cast also flesh out their strong characters to make the whole film much more believable.
The cinematography is beautiful, the dusky-autumnal scenes are captured in an explosion of reds and yellows and oranges that seem to wash over you time and time again, and the final flight sequence is a wonderful closing to an incredibly refreshing film.
People always seem to quote this movie as perfect family fair. I hate your
typical Hollywood-produced family movie with ingratiatingly saccharine
and perfect parents-with-a-message. Despite its plucked from the headlines
(mostly) true story roots and workmanlike, rather than inspired scripting,
this movie manages to transcend that due to a number of
Beautiful cinematography of both the geese and southern Ontario. Decent supporting performances. But mostly due to the perfectly cast leads, Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin, as the estranged father and daughter.
Everyone says Daniels is underrated, so I guess that means he isn't. He manages to make the father eccentric without ever falling into caricature.
Paquin creates a believable teen character, never straying from truth in favour of evoking our sympathy by being cute. Her naturalistic style of acting sometimes seems out of place with other more studied actors (e.g. the almost unwatchable Hurlyburly) but here she and Daniels and the minimal dialogue of the script work so well. Its about time someone gave her another decent lead role.
Finally, the opening credits sequence is a masterclass in storytelling economy, giving us the plot background without words, and setting up the whole downbeat tone of the movie with Mary Chapin Carpenter's haunting version of 10,000 Miles.
This is poetic, emotional, breathtaking film-making blessed with a
truly inspiring Mark Isham score. The theme song, "10,000 Miles", is
achingly beautiful and is first used with intuitive irony over the
film's opening credit sequence.
Anna Paquin is the little girl who, with her father, Jeff Daniels, "imprints" with a flock of young geese and leads them, via homemade aircraft, to a new home thousands of miles away.
The flight sequences, which combine real flying with computer-assisted imagery over rivers, pastures and cityscapes, are flawless. They capture the awe and staggering thrill of flight without ever resorting to unnecessary, contrived stuntwork.
Daniels, not a regular face on the silver screen these days, is natural and likable as Paquin's eccentric father while Paquin once again demonstrates what a brilliant talent she is.
The narrative builds to an exciting conclusion as the film's environmental theme is amplified.
Director Ballard, who also made the striking BLACK STALLION and the stark NEVER CRY WOLF, brings acute visual economy to every scene and never allows the film's underlying theme to become preachy.
Caleb Deschanel, the film's cinematographer, gives us flawless images that frequently drop the jaw.
A major achievement in a minor key.
The greatest challenge any of us will ever face is how to regain the
reach for joy after the loss of a loved one. Especially, when that loss
and occurs at an age before one has developed the capacities to manage it.
That is the over-arching and powerful theme that "Fly Away Home" manages
evoke so beautifully.
It's difficult to pin-point which of the masterfully developed elements of filmmaking that make this movie such a joy to watch again and again. But, surely, it all comes down to the great story-telling ability of Mr. Carol Ballard. Everything is harnessed to tell the story (a basic element of drama surprisingly ignored these days in Hollywood) of a girl who loses her mother at a critical point in her life, and has to find a way to the rest of her life, while reeling from the trauma and uncertain of how to survive her grief.
The discovery of an abandoned nest of Canadian geese eggs is the simple overlaying metaphor that takes us on her journey. The great difference between this movie and other movies of its type is that Mr. Ballard resists the temptation to explicate the transcendent story of Amy's emotional triumph over her loss and grief. Simply put, the story is about the geese, but it's really about Amy's recovery and reconnection with her future, with her life, though there isn't one line of dialogue explaining that to the viewer. It seeps out of the story through the masterful, chekovian performances of Anna Paquin as Amy and Jeff Daniels as her father. This theme is supported with such unerring consistency in the music (Mark Isham at his most sublime), the cinematography, editing, lighting, art direction and casting. All of the casting is just perfect. Especially in the sense that none of the actors ever seem to be pulling anything out of their "bag of tricks" or doing some bit you've seen them do before. The quality of the work is such that much of the dialogue in the movie seems spontaneous and almost ad libbed. The final sequence is a thing of sublime, subtly powerful beauty that is rarely seen in movies these days. A powerful, wordless climax. Something that happens so effortlessly, because the story that comes before has been told so completely and with such skill. I cry every time I watch it.
Thank you, Carol Ballard, for this beautiful gift of compassion and belief.
Note: Did Anna Paquin actually move from little girl to adolescent in the course of making this movie, or is it more of the master magicianry of Carol Ballard and his team?
A family film .. yes but certainly one that can be watched and watched
without the need for a licensing child. Jeff Daniels is superb as an
eccentric father who takes on board his daughter after his estranged wife's
death in a car accident. A strong supporting cast (including geese) are
driven to support Amy's desire to assist a bunch of orphaned geese to
maintain a wild existence. This involves teaching the geese to fly and
leading them South by air. This journey for both the daughter coping with
grief after the loss of her mother, the father in discovering his daughter
once more and the geese in finding a new home for the Winter adds up to ..
well tears and more tears.
Before you write this film off as "fantasy" take the time to watch the BBC's Life of Birds final part. There you meet a remarkable farmer from the US who is using a microlite to aid a few of the last remaining Whooping Cranes to re-establish migratory patterns.
In the UK the site of skeins of wild geese migrating in Winter form their Summer homes in Iceland and the Arctic circle is one of the last great wildlife dramas left on this small island. The views in Fly away Home of Amy's geese as they move in to join the hundreds of wild geese powering South capture this majesty. This story of a group of people who care about and assist this natural pattern may help reinforce some of the awe that we should all feel when confronted with these epic and annual journeys.
I saw this movie in theaters with my dad. When we left he said, "It
makes you want to go buy a little airplane, doesn't it?" It did. I
loved this movie, the music especially. I was saddened to find that
they didn't release a soundtrack.
While a little folksy, it is nevertheless a funny and heartwarming story about a girl's relationship with her father in a home she is struggling to remember. Amy is trying to cope with her mother's death, then has to move halfway across the world and get used to new family members, her father's workaholic bachelor life, and her father's girlfriend. Just as she is ready to give up, she becomes the mother to fifteen abandoned Canadian geese. Her father and friends put together an elaborate scheme to teach the geese to fly and chaos ensues as Amy and her father lead their flock south for the winter. A touching story of life and love. I recommend it highly.
WARNING: This review may reveal portions of the movie plot.
If you want to just lose yourself in a story that is sweet and uplifting, then this is the movie for you. I was surprised at how efficiently this movie drew me in, but then again I'm a big softie at heart. I started watching this movie late one night and didn't want to stop -- so I didn't!
The movie concerns a young girl who goes to live with her father after her mother is killed in a car accident. Dad and Mom divorced many years before and live on opposite sides of the world -- Canada and New Zealand -- so she doesn't know Dad very well.
Jeff Bridges plays the father in this film and does it incredibly well. He's an artist who is just a little bit quirky, a big believer in following your dreams, and desperately trying to capture the love for his daughter that he regrets having lost in the divorce years before. Anna Paquin as his 13-year old daughter is wonderful -- how do young kids act so well??? -- as she learns to grieve for her mother, find a new life in a new country, and love and trust a father whom she has barely known most of her life.
The supporting cast shines as well, in most cases. Most notably is Terry Kinney as Daniels brother and the young girls uncle. He's the kind of uncle everyone wants to have around, although when he falls asleep while babysitting and Paquin's character disappears, he doesn't seem very responsible. He becomes a bit of a scene stealer though as the movie progresses. He has one of the best lines in the film when he tries to convince a U.S. border-patrol agent that he needs dozens of gallons of gas to go camping for his portable generator to run his blender and TV. "Nothing like camping in the middle of no where with your VCR, a good movie, and a pina colada."
Dana Delany (of TV's "China Beach" fame) plays Daniels sometimes live-in girlfriend and seems to be the only actor who doesn't really stretch in this part. I don't believe this is Delany's fault, however. This story is primarily about the father-daughter relationship, and Delany's part suffers as a result. Most scenes are supportive and don't really give her a chance to shine.
The story is well written with a combination of genuine emotion, without becoming overly sappy. Yes, the film is sweet, but not sickeningly so. When the credits began to roll at the end of this movie, the first thing I thought of way, "How could this have gotten a PG rating?" I *literally* heard one four-letter word in the entire film, and that is said under the breath so that I wasn't even sure I heard it. There is one reference to sex outside marriage, and a car accident at the beginning of the film. That's it. Parents, you can show this to young children without any real concern. My suggestion: Watch the first 5 minutes of the film and if you decide your children can handle the opening sequence of a car crash, then there probably is nothing else in the film that should be a problem (in my opinion!)
I love this movie it's a classic.You will love it. It's one of those
heart toucher's.Its a great story and you can tell that there's a lot
of meaning to it.I guarantee you'll love it!!It is based on a true
story,its about a girl who finds 16 goose eggs and begins raising the
geese after the eggs hatch.It's a sad and happy story and also a must
see motion picture.
I have seen this movie at least 50 times and i am willing to watch it another million times!! I personally recommend that you see this movie. If you don't see it i can guarantee you will regret it. So go rent Fly Away Home a great 1996 film for you and your family. Enjoy watching this great film,i know I did!!
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