Fly Away Home (1996)
Broken promises are the worst. Better not to promise anything - Susan
Following her mother's death Amy (Anna Paquin - X-Men: The Last Stand) is forced to leave her home in New Zealand to go and live with her father Tom (Jeff Daniels - Speed) in Canada where he works as an inventor and sculptor. Feeling lonely Amy struggles with her new life especially as she hasn't seen her father in years and it doesn't help that he is busy with work and campaigning against the proposed development of a nearby wood. But when Amy finds a batch of Geese eggs following the destruction of the woods she finds herself becoming Mother Goose as the young hatchlings see her as their mother following her everywhere she goes. It is because of this that Amy and Tom bond as they not only try and raise these Geese but also lead them on an amazing journey South by teaching them to fly.
I've watched "Fly Away Home" a few times over the years and it never fails to impress visually, the cinematography of birds in flight or running around on the ground is truly amazing and even the opening incident has an undeniable beauty about it despite also being shocking. And to be honest the story of Amy and her father trying to lead a flock of Geese in flight is also impressive and entertaining. But, and there is usually a but, whilst the story of trying to lead these captive Geese on a flight works the emotional depth of Amy bonding with her father doesn't and sadly nor do other stories such as environmental issues as they end up playing second fiddle to what is the amazing journey. It doesn't mean that "Fly Away Home" is a bad movie, heck it is one of the most enjoyable feel good family movies made in a long time, but the lack of depth spoils things.
Now it has to be said that the opening to "Fly Away Home" is amazing, not because it is some big action scene or full of well scripted dialogue, in fact there is no dialogue. But you won't forget it and you will be a little surprised seeing that this is a family movie but we watch as Amy and her mother drive along, happy, there is this beautiful music playing and then bang and Amy's mother dies. It's not by any means graphic but has such an impact, delivering beauty and tragedy at the same time whilst also leading in to why Amy ends up having to leave New Zealand to live with her father in Canada, a father who has not been part of her life since the divorce.
After that, well in a way there is the obvious side to "Fly Away Home" as you can guess Amy will have issues with moving to Canada from loneliness, missing her mum and struggling to bond with her father having not seen him in years. And there is a tenderness to this side as we watch Amy struggle with her new life especially as her father is not only a busy inventor and sculptor but also has a new woman in his life. But this then leads into the main part of the movie where having found a nest of Geese eggs Amy and her dad bond over raising them and taking on the task of trying to get them to fly South for the Winter.
This side of "Fly Away Home" is really the central storyline as we have the amusement of the young Geese seeing Amy as Mother Goose, following her all over the place and being the reason why she has to learn to fly in order for them to fly. And of course we also have the amazing flight sequences as Amy and her father in two light airplanes try and lead the birds on a journey South, a journey which has its moments of danger and comedy. Plus of course an emotional feel good ending which brings the movie nicely to a conclusion.
But now here is the thing all the scenes of the birds following Amy be on the floor or in the sky are brilliant, in fact it is better than brilliant and quite simply spell binding. And the drama of the journey, the forced landing at a military base and an encounter with hunters makes it more than just a beautiful flight South. But it takes precedence over the other elements such as Amy bonding with her dad over their mission or the environmental issues as nature is destroyed for commercial buildings. Even the whole hub-bub of the media coverage of Amy's amazing flight doesn't have the depth that it could have. It almost seems like director Carroll Ballard was so impressed with the amazing cinematography that he let it dominate the movie rather than developing the emotional under belly of the various issues. And if that is the case then you can sort of understand why as the cinematography is stunning but you just wish he had managed to combine a little more depth at the same time.
As for the performances well "Fly Away Home" is really all about Anna Paquin as Amy and it's a mixed bag performance. As the lonely, upset girl Paquin is brilliant, delivering that feeling of her world having come to an end having been forced to move to Canada. But then when we have Amy in moments of drama, be it dealing with an over officious official who wants to clip the Geese's wings or learning to fly it becomes a little over the top, too full on. It's still an enjoyable performance and one which gives something for both young and old audiences to enjoy.
Aside from Paquin there is Jeff Daniels who whilst entertaining is saddled with a cliche character of the estranged father who struggles. It's the sort of performance seen in various other movies and whilst fun isn't that memorable. And sadly being even less memorable is the delightful Dana Delany who as Tom's girlfriend seems there just so we have another female character and a character which is mainly in the background and not allowing Delany to show what a wonderful actress she is.
What this all boils down to is that "Fly Away Home" is a wonderfully entertaining movie and a feel good movie which despite a surprisingly shocking opening is a perfect family movie. It is a shame that the depth of emotion when it comes to the bonding of father and daughter is weak as are the various sub plots such as environmental issues but the cinematography is amazing and it is the wonderful camera work which you will leave you seriously impressed.
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