POLARIS l Filmoption International and Epic Pictures

Coming from Epic Pictures and having its world premiere during the opening night of the Fantasia Film Festival, POLARIS tells a revenge story set against an endless snowy landscape. Taking place in 2144, in a land known as Frozen World, few have survived the freezing temperatures. One survivor is a girl named Sumi (Viva Lee), who was raised by a bear and is able to bring hope from the stars. Director KC Carthew awakens the audience to an immersive experience as we visually experience the unforgiving climate as well as the fear (and tenacity) of a girl who will do anything to protect her friends.

The film begins with Sumi and her companion (a giant polar bear) romping through the snow. There is no hierarchy of pet and owner in the wilderness, and in fact, the polar bear serves more as a parent or guardian to the young Sumi. The pair live in a snowy landscape where the cold and the elements do not seem to bother either of them. And because the movie was filmed in the Yukon, the director has endless scenery to race through. Sumi finds comfort in sprawling out in the fluffy snow with her equally white and fluffy friend. The opening hints at a post-apocalyptic land where discarded cars sit in piles and stay mostly obscured by the snow, while the animal-skin-clad remaining humans hide among the useless vehicles.

The communication occurs mostly through yelling and grunts, as Sumi never gained human speech. However, she appears very fluent in the languages of the local wildlife. She exchanges words with the animals and even trees as she goes about her perfectly normal day. However, her blissful existence becomes shattered when Sumi barbarically loses her polar bear buddy and suddenly the snowy world is no longer her playground filled with fun and friends. She becomes hungry and scared, which also hints that the bear provided more than companionship. She knows she must follow the Polaris star, but she cannot make the journey alone.

Thankfully, the elderly Dee (Muriel Dutil) takes in Sumi and offers her food and a place to stay safe. With the old woman’s help, Sumi finds Frozen Girl (Khamisa Wilsher), a badly wounded woman encased in green armor. The villains of the film, the Morad hunters rely on brutality and appear to kill without reason, and now they plan to kill Sumi and her new friends. Sumi and Frozen Girl escape into the frozen wasteland, but Dee is not so lucky. So now, Sumi must protect Frozen Girl and bring the incapacitated woman to safety before the hunters find them.

Courtesy Filmoption International and Epic Pictures

Even when other characters communicate with each other, the audience will not understand any of the dialogue because the language was created for the movie. The film does not rely on subtitles at all, but instead, we must experience the world through the eyes and ears of Sumi. She never learned how to communicate with humans, so we must rely on visual cues to understand relationships and life-saving objectives. While this method of storytelling creates a more rushed approach which does help create a sense of urgency, it also hinders the development of the characters’ relationships.

The costumes and technical aspects give the film a Mad Max feel with the mix of primal and mechanical. One scene shows two of the characters racing on show mobiles, but both machines come equipped with antlers or horns as if the rivals are both riding their noble steeds into battle. However, the film also holds quite a bit of mysticism and hope, so the journey of the main characters also holds some similarities with The Wizard of Oz. POLARIS is a bloody post-apocalyptic version of Oz (so do not confuse this for a family friendly movie), but the story and the driving theme still exist. Sumi needs an eye. Frozen Girl needs a heart. While they both want to go home, they also desperately need a human connection to help them physically and mentally survive.

Despite some of the issues with a rushed narrative, the physical commitment given by the actors (especially Lee) brings an intense amount of emotion despite the film being void of a recognizable language. And while many readers might feel an eagerness to see POLARIS, I highly recommend waiting to experience the film on the big screen. The vastness of the landscape would lose too much of its power if viewed on anything smaller.

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