The Snow Walker Charles Martin Smith

The Snow Walker Charles Martin Smith
Notable character-actor Charles Martin Smith presents a mostly wonderful rendering of Farley Mowat's Walk Well My Brother that sees a culture clash melt into a romantically-tinged quest for survival. The Snow Walker begins its story in Yellowknife in 1953 when bush pilot Charlie Halliday (charismatic Canuck Barry Pepper) embarks on a routine business trip that goes awry. At the behest of an Inuit group he meets while in the Arctic and for the price of some valuable ivory, Halliday agrees to bring an ill woman named Kanaalaq (a marvellous debut by Inuit actress Annabella Piugattuk) back to Yellowknife for the medical care she requires. When Halliday's engine fails, his plane crashes into a shallow lake and the two are caught alone in the middle of the Arctic. While some of his fellow pilots balk at their boss's order (coolly played by James Cromwell), who initially insists that Halliday's missing plane must be found, the fallen pilot must overcome his pride, chauvinism and prejudice to accept that his ailing passenger is his only hope for survival. The two communicate in an amalgam of their native tongues so that the dying Kannalaq can patiently teach Halliday how to hunt and survive the elements as they march towards humanity. Though the film features compelling performances from Pepper and Piugattuk, it does seem a bit laboured at times. Once the plotline of survival is in place there is no need for the awkward and unnecessary jumps between Halliday's white life in Yellowknife — where his loss continues to be mourned — and his harrowing journey with Kanaalaq. An excellent making of featurette reveals how Pepper mentored Piugattuk and fostered an undeniable chemistry between their characters. It documents how rigorous the shoots in the Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, and Churchill, Manitoba were for the cast and crew, including a dangerous escape from a polar bear cub that is caught on tape. It also features some remarkable insight from Mowat, who chats casually with Smith about the director's vivid adaptation. Plus: commentary; trailer. (Lions Gate)