Review By: Stephen Snart
Todayís audiences arenít as patient with overly sentimental films as they used to be in the early ages of film-going. The modern-day moviegoer has become jaded and skeptical when they encounter film that wears its heart on its sleeve. As a result, filmmakers have had to find ways to avoid churning out overly emotional treacle. Take the recent summer comedy Click for example. That boneheaded bonanza taught us that if you want to make a Frank Capra-esque film, it needs to star Adam Sandler and be disguised as frat boy humor filled to the brim with fart jokes and slapstick visual gags.
In the case of Aurora Borealis, the filmmakers have infused foul language and occasionally crude dialogue to balance out heartwarming sentimentality. The combination isnít entirely successful but it does help the film to avoid the feel of an after-school special quality. And more importantly, in spite of the proliferation of four-letter words, the events remain rather soft-edged, suiting this charming little film quite nicely.
The heart of the story revolves around the refreshing friendship between a misguided young man and his dying grandfather. Duncan (Joshua Jackson), a high school dropout, has been bouncing around between a series of dead-end jobs ever since his father died when he was 15. It is ten years since the tragedy and his successful but callous older brother Jacob (Steven Pasquale) doesnít want to spend any time reminiscing about their father; heís too busy using Duncanís apartment for trysts with his mistress. If this sounds reminiscent of the 1960 Billy Wilder classic The Apartment, it should, because as Duncan later explains, ďthatís where he got the idea.Ē
Saddened by his brotherís denial of their fatherís legacy, Duncan pays a visit to his grandparents to commemorate the anniversary of the passing. His grandmother, Ruth (Louise Fletcher), is a lively old soul, full of energy and warmth. But his grandfather, Ronald (Donald Sutherland), has seen better days. Currently suffering from Parkinsonís and chronic kidney problems, Ronald appears to be entering the early stages of Alzheimerís disease.
Fresh off his most recent firing, Duncan takes a job as a Handyman at his grandparentís apartment complex. This way he can spend more time with Ronald and help out around the apartment. On one of his early visits he meets Ronaldís home assistant, Kate (Juliette Lewis). The two instantly recognize each other as lost souls and quickly forge a relationship out of their loneliness. Since sheís new in town, Duncan shows Kate around, doing all sorts of Minneapolis-based activities like rooting for the Vikings, driving a snow plow and chucking snowballs at icicles.
For a moment, Duncan seems to find stability. But