Aurora Borealis

Director: James C.E. Burke

Set and mostly filmed in the cold, gray and endlessly icy winter of Minneapolis, the bleak cinematography matches the tone of the film which is guaranteed to depress viewers despite excellent performances from our leads. First time feature screenwriter Brent Boyd’s work, directed by James C.E. Burke won numerous audience and jury prizes at U.S. film festivals including richly deserved accolades for Joshua Jackson and Donald Sutherland. Jackson, one of the most talented actors on the former WB series Dawson’s Creek turns in a completely believable performance as Duncan Shorter, an aimless twenty-something who mostly exists in that state of either unemployment or just about to get fired who, despite a serious lack of confidence problem after his father died when he was in his teens under questionable circumstances, seems interested in attending college despite not wanting or knowing how to fill out the application. He’s perpetually reminiscent to viewers of a bird who’s always just about to take off. We keep expecting him to branch out and do something but he never quite flies away until finally he realizes he must change the direction his life has been heading, which consists of being a doormat for his rich, unlikable married older brother, who (inspired by Wilder’s Apartment) uses Duncan’s apartment for illicit trysts, cheating on his wife and family. Although we have trouble sympathizing with the stereotypical aimless slacker Duncan (or come to think of it a majority of the characters in the film), he does gain our respect after he takes a job as a handyman in the senior building where his dementia ridden grandfather and long-suffering, loving grandmother live so that way he can look in on them from time to time. It’s in the apartment of his grandparents that Duncan first meets the free-spirited in home healthcare worker Juliette Lewis (always typecast), who recently moved to Minneapolis, inspired by The Replacements and Paul Westerberg, after a series of stints in cities and towns across the country. As expected, the two begin dating and manage to confront and call each other out on their respective issues but the film manages to hold audiences at a distance with some truly emotionally grating scenes with Sutherland who, facing the complete loss of his faculties, is trying to beg his grandson to end his life and by Jackson’s character himself who has a few big moments where he tries to make peace with the past and a few intimate details surrounding his father’s untimely death are revealed, but we never quite get the revelation we are looking for before the slightly predictable ending comes along. Overall, worth it for the acting, just be prepared for the depression that follows as it will particular bother those whose own parents or grandparents are facing similar circumstances.