‘GO NORTH’ Review
Let’s face it, there’s nothing new you can do with the post-apocalyptic genre. What we can hope for now is that there’s a visual flair and/or a sincerity and dedication to the characters that will set the story apart, no matter what medium it’s in. Recently, The Maze Runner series brought about an intriguing combination of post-apocalypse and totalitarianism, Mad Max:Fury Road was pure energy on screen, and The Last of Us was an interactive masterpiece. Go North bares the most resemblance to the latter without the terrifying monsters, so slightly less interesting. The inciting incident at the core of Go North is a mystery which we don’t really discover, but it isn’t important no matter how much we might want to know. This is a character movie about finding your place at the end of civilization.
Every adult has been eradicated and the hierarchy of those remaining in the section we see is led by the alpha males, the foremost being Caleb (Patrick Schwarzenegger). Josh (Jacob Lofland) and Caleb’s sister Jessie (Sophie Kennedy Clark) long to find others and see what’s out there and escape their commune. Heading north as they were instructed before things ended, with hungry, feral dogs threatening their safety during travel, Josh and Jessie discover themselves on their journey to find the new world.
Director/co-writer Matthew Ogens comes from a documentary background with the terrific Confessions of a Superhero and Meet the Hitlers amongst his best. He’s making his fictional debut here produced in part by fellow documentarian Morgan Spurlock. There’s a documentary look for sure, very naturally lit and observational. There’s an obvious Lord of the Flies vibe to the situation, but once Josh and Jessie get on the way the vibe changes into a relationship not unlike the first Hunger Games. It’s a dim time, but the movie never felt like it was trying to be a grim story, just a wandering one. It FEELS like a documentary on an interesting topic but without an interesting subject.
Lofland’s a bit flat but Clark is absolutely adorable, and the chemistry between the two felt real. The movie comes to life once they begin to connect and the middle of the movie was the most interesting…but it soon derails. The climax left a lot to be desired, and though I liked the final moments it felt very anti-climactic before that. It needed to continue, or maybe I wanted more of an explanation. Maybe I wanted to see more flashbacks than we get or discover why we were seeing them. Maybe I wanted for the past ELE (Exctinction Level Event) to have some ramifications that added conflict besides dogs and bullies, but that wasn’t what this movie was. The very ending has a glimpse of potential hope, but not enough to become a cheery, saccharine finish that would have tainted the whole thing.
Of note, this is the first feature film to have a companion short made for VR/360 degree viewing which is well worth checking out.
Part coming of age, part road trip, part thriller; Go North doesn’t cover new ground, but it IS sincere and therefore more solid of an endeavor. Perhaps I wanted more of a thriller than a character study, but Go North was only particularly noteworthy for the midsection. I suppose it’s commendable to avoid many of the genre tropes, but when that’s kinda what you want it leaves you feeling empty. Worth a look, but curb those expectations.
Good performance from Sophie Kennedy Clark, beautifully shot.
Defies genre tropes to it's detriment, lacks a real climax.