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Duncan is a depressed 20-something who has just lost another job. He makes extra money by letting out his flat for his brother's romantic trysts, but when a job comes up as a caretaker in his grandparent's building he takes it. His grandfather has Parkinson's Disease and he and his wife have a caregiver whom Duncan finds compellingly upbeat. As they begin a tentative romance, and Duncan spends more time with his grandparents, he begins to face his feelings about the early loss of his father. A moving drama, set in a frigid Minnesota landscape. Written by
The Indie film, "Aurora Borealis" directed by John C.E. Burke has created a fair and moving picture with sensitive undertones and subtle cultivation. The film tells the story of Duncan Shorter, a young twenty-something with poor work ethic, an underlying affliction, and an ill-conceived perception of life. Joshua Jackson or better known as "Pacey" portrays the young passive Duncan. Since the untimely death of his beloved father, Duncan has been quite engulfed and comfortable in his small town in Minnesota. A town where all your friends have been around since elementary school and everyone wallows in their entity and sheer irksome lifestyle with Duncan being no different. From adulterous brother that uses his apartment to his unsupportive circle of friends, Duncan is in no way progressing or moving forward to a dissimilar lifestyle that is destined to take over. The only sanctity of his life is his grandparents, Ronald and Ruth played exquisitely by Donald Sutherland and Oscar winner, Louise Fletcher. Ronald has grown ill over the years with his battle with Parkinson's disease and his steady decline of fragility. Ruth has been the sole caretaker of Ronald but as Ronald becomes more ailing and developing thoughts of suicide, the family must face the choice of a home for him or the inevitability of Ronald attempt at ending his existence. Duncan must now face not only the choice of losing another family member but past demons that surface throughout the film. The sheer tenacity that director Burke has to tackle such a sensitive subject as euthanasia and elderly anguish is electrifying and at times heartbreaking. The volume of humanity expressed throughout the film alone is worthy of viewing consideration. When Duncan meets the nurse of his grandfather, Kate (Juliette Lewis) we see Duncan's world start to be challenged for the first time. Only in the subtlety of sacrifice that the film shows could the film illuminate fully. Joshua Jackson breaks away from his television-type personality and gives a befitting performance. This is the first time he has taken am admirable first step into a leading character. His "Duncan" is tortured and multi-layered but during the approximate two hours of film length it's not always clarified. With perhaps a bit more research and shedding some insecurity, Jackson may have nailed the pivotal role. Louise Fletcher returns to glorious form as Duncan's grandmother, Ruth. Since her Oscar Win for 1975's "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" she's been missed from the silver screen with exceptions of cameos in "Cruel Intentions" and "A Map of the World." Ruth is the champion of the family with her constant understanding of Duncan's insecurities, pain and misguided life to loyalty, passion and care for her feeble husband. There is excellent movie magic being made indeed for the veteran actress. The standout of the cast is coming from the too often ignored and phenomenal veteran actor, Donald Sutherland; who is just waiting for that little bit of buzz to hurtle him into serious contention for a supporting bid from critics. The film has been flying under the radar with the low budget and lack of advertisement but rest assure if enough people see the film Sutherland could be a threat to many men seeking Oscar gold this season. Sutherland's "Ronald" is hilarious, completely likable and a beautifully written character. The courage that Sutherland shows in his character is just cutthroat fire of the film. Leave no mistake, "Ronald" fragility may seem like his weakness but the vulnerability he leaves you after a riveting speech or antithesis will leave you absolutely enthralled. All technical aspects of the film are your average "Plain Jane" kind of independent film but Burke does capture the essence of the culture that we are thrown into. A beautiful musical score coming from Mychael Danna and a crisp clear cut editing style coming from Richard Nord known for his Oscar nominated editing in "The Fugitive." Burke gladly invites the audience into the screen along with a family of heartache and sorrow. I felt compelled and satisfied with the outcome when the credits started rolling. The "northern lights" are evident in "Aurora Borealis" and are gladly incontestable. Post-experience will leave you in disposition and wonderful serenity.
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