A warm and sensitive tale about a young girl and her geese. A car crash has
prematurely bereft Amy Alden (Anna Paquin) of her mother and she winds up going
to Ontario to live with her estranged father Thomas (Jeff Daniels). Dad, as it turns
out, is a wild and fascinating artist/inventor who is really a regular guy, but could be
considered slightly eclectic, if not eccentric, in certain circles. Amy's new life and
surroundings, which include relating to her dad and his girlfriend, prove a difficult
transition for the thirteen-year-old. The unexpected discovery of a nest of orphaned
goose eggs in the barn become a crucial turning point in her life. She nurtures them,
watches them hatch, and cares for the goslings who have, according to their nature,
imprinted her (since she was the first creature they ever saw) on their minds as their
Columbia Tristar film distributors international.
Realizing that these little birds are the first things that have made her happy since
her mother's death, her father does all in his power to help her keep and enjoy them.
Upon discovering that it is illegal to raise wild geese domestically, however, without
clipping their wings because of the potential danger of spreading disease among
wild flocks, the family is confronted with a serious problem that can only be solved by
teaching the birds how to fly. The magnitude of the problem demands dedication,
hard work, and ingenuity to deal with it properly.
The story is, in reality, based not upon the experiences of a little girl, but the
Canadian artist Bill Lishman. (The magnificent sculptures on view in the film are
also from his hand.) Remarking upon his experiences, Lishman says, 'Migration is
not actually instinctive with birds. It has evolved over time and the route is passed
on from one generation to the next. If a species is wiped out in an area, the
migration route is lost with them, so if you want to re-establish that species in that
area, you have to find a way to show them the route. In 1993, Joe Duff and I raised
a flock of 18 geese and tried an experiment to fly them to Virginia, and it was
successful.' (For the making of the film, Lishman imprinted 60 potential thespian
geese with the image of his daughter, who was approximately the same size and age
as actress Anna Paquin, as well as with image of an Ultra light aircraft and, for
certain FX, a boat. These various imprints did not harm the birds and will eventually
disappear because the imprinting process naturally expires as birds mature.)
A vast number of complicated and fascinating technical problems had to be taken
into account previous to the making of the film. A special aircraft, for one example,
with extra long wings had to be designed not only because feature film cameras are
too large and heavy for lightweight aircraft, but because geese fly at 32 mph which is
stalling speed for most aircraft. The aerial acrobatics necessary, once in the sky, for
the realization of the sequences are also incredible. There were five basic aircraft
on the picture: a bi-wing foot-launched glider with no motor, a bi-wing foot-launched
underpowered unit and its equivalent with a larger motor, a bi-wing with tricycle
landing gear, and a kite-winged goose trike (as well as a helicopter to film the
As far as the incorporation of a father/daughter relationship to create audience
interest, Lishman admitted during the planning stage, '...that's nice, but I think
visually it's going to be fabulous because we'll be able to share that image of the
birds, that point of view of flying with them. A lot of people are going to enjoy that
image no matter what the story.' And how right he was: the film is truly breathtaking,
especially the sequences with birds in flight and co-ordinating with their human
assistants. The story, although captivating, matters less because it is through the
images that the viewer's heart is raised high and flying with a glow.
Though touching the film may be, it also contains more important implications. From
an ecological standpoint, it shows and shares how important an activity like saving
an endangered species is. It reminds one how much less important so many other
activities in our lives are by comparison.
Superb points for Lishman and his wonderful story (what a guy!) as well as the
direction of Carroll Ballard and breathtaking cinematography of Caleb Deschanel.
Many takes were shot at 'magic hour' and this enhances the stunning beauty of the
images. And, of course, let us not forget the magnificent geese. Keep watching the
A DON'T MISS.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett