Arctic Parent Guide
A tale of courage, resourcefulness, and survival set in the fiercely beautiful Icelandic mountains.
Parent Movie Review
The temperature in Calgary, Canada today, including wind chill, was -24° Celsius, (that’s -11.2° for you Fahrenheiters.) The wind was certainly a factor as I slogged seven city blocks into a headwind to reach the movie theater. I tell you this firstly, because I appreciate your pity, and secondly, because arriving in the theater with a dripping nose, numb face, and fingers too stiff to move gave me an immediate empathy for the protagonists of this film. The story of Arctic unfolds in the mountains of Iceland - a place much colder than Calgary.
Overgård, (Mads Mikkelsen,) has already lived through an airplane crash. The location of his accidental landing—a stretch of barren snow—is so far north that the sun doesn’t set and something as simple as finding drinking water requires inventiveness. Fortunately, Overgård has the skills to survive. He makes fishing hooks out of salvaged scraps of metal, signals for help with a hand cranked radio, and sets a timer on his watch to track the passage of days and maintain healthy sleeping hours. He’s doing okay, but he’s desperate for rescue. One day, in a bitter snowstorm, salvation appears in the form of a passing helicopter. But when the pilot attempts a landing, the result is disaster. With the helicopter smashed to pieces and the pilot dead, Overgård does the saving as he drags a young woman, (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir,) from the wreckage.
Even after stitching her stomach wound closed, (the injury and accompanying operation are shown,) it’s obvious to both Overgård and the audience that the woman’s in rough shape. She’s barely conscious, and almost completely unresponsive as Overgård tries to communicate. These feeble attempts, and Overgård’s occasional habit of talking to himself, constitute the only dialogue in this film. Nonetheless, Overgård is determined to keep her alive and uses up what little medicine he can scrounge from the wrecks of both aircraft. With that gone, he knows that they can no longer wait around for rescue—the woman’s life depends on them reaching civilization themselves. Bundling her into a sleeping bag and strapping her, and their few supplies, to a sled, Overgård begins his impossibly long journey, dragging the weight of the woman behind him.
Like the title itself, Arctic is minimalist, raw and effective. It’s beautifully crafted—shot on location in Iceland’s polar regions, it’s easy to see that the actors are really feeling it as they shiver in the biting cold, huddle into their coats, and have an all round miserable time. It’s also unflinching in portraying the suffering of the main characters—wounds ooze, fingers turn purple with frostbite, and desperate times call for desperate measures as one character, in a particularly painful scene, is forced to injure his own leg to escape being pinned beneath a boulder. (Whether the leg is broken or just badly hurt is unclear, but the character’s agony, bleeding wound, and resulting trail of blood are shown.) Some of this suffering is accompanied by strong language, and I noted two uses of the sexual expletive. The characters are also in constant peril - the possibility of freezing to death is very real, and they carve caves out of snow or zip themselves in sleeping bags to wait out fierce blizzards. As if that weren’t enough, at one point they face a terrifying attack from a polar bear.
For most children, this is obviously much too intense. But for the older crowd, especially those with an interest in survival, an appreciation for impeccable acting, or a love of cinematography, this foray into the frozen north comes with its own kind of beauty. It’s a celebration of resilience, ingenuity, and optimism. It’s also a touching tribute to the human capacity to love, protect and sacrifice for others—even total strangers. For teens and adults who aren’t squeamish about blood and peril, this is a movie with a message worth watching.Directed by Joe Penna. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release February 1, 2019. Updated March 5, 2019
Watch the trailer for Arctichttps://bleeckerstreetmedia.com/arctic
Rating & Content Info
Why is Arctic rated PG-13? Arctic is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for language and some bloody images
Violence: A man kills a fish by whacking it on the head. A helicopter crashes into the side of a hill—the crash itself is hidden from view, but the resulting smoking wreckage is seen. A dead man is dragged from the wreckage with a bleeding gash on his forehead. He’s left lying in a snowbank—later, to remove his coat, the body is dug out of the snow. This scene is treated with sensitivity and respect. A woman has a laceration on her stomach. The main character pinches the wound closed and staples it shut. Medicine is applied to the wound, which is later shown torn open and bleeding through bandages. Characters are threatened by a polar bear—this includes a frightening jump scene. A character’s leg becomes trapped after a rockslide, and he’s forced to free himself by yanking his leg free. The sound of grating bone is heard, accompanied by the character’s agonized cries. Later, the bleeding wound is shown. A character coughs up blood. A character examines his discoloured, frostbitten fingers.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: Two sexual expletives are used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated March 5, 2019
Arctic Parents' Guide
Overgård chooses to leave the relative safety of his airplane to help the woman. By doing so, he suffers from the cold, sustains serious injuries, and is aware that he may not survive. What clues do the filmmakers provide to explain why he made this choice? How do they develop empathy for the characters without using words or telling us their names?
Have you ever had to make sacrifices to do the right thing? Has this changed the way you see yourself or other people? How can you show appreciation for the people who sacrifice for you?
Read books about Arctic
Julie’s Wolfpack is one in a series of novels by Jean Craighead George telling the story of a native Alaskan girl who survives in the arctic by befriending a pack of wolves.
For older kids, Hatchet by Gary Paulson is a Newberry Honour winning novel about one boy’s efforts to survive the Canadian wilderness.
If you are awestruck by the wild beauty of Iceland, try Victoria Cribb’s Lost in Iceland, a photo book chock full of haunting landscapes.
Related home video titles:
In Alpha, set 20,000 years ago in Ice Age Europe, a young man must survive in a harsh climate with the help of a wolf, as he tries to reunite with his clan. All dialogue in this film is spoken in an invented Cro-Magnon language, so it is only suitable for older children who are willing to read subtitles. This movie is also partially shot in Iceland (the rest is filmed in Canada).
White Fang is another survival story set in the far north. In this case, a young man befriends a wolf dog that helps him survive in the harsh environment of the Yukon.
A much warmer survival tale is told in 127 Hours. Set in Utah, this tells the true story of Aron Ralston’s endurance and terrible choices after he gets trapped in a crevice while mountain climbing in a canyon.
An oceangoing adventure is the basis for Adrift. In this maritime story, a young couple find themselves caught in a hurricane. In the aftermath, the young woman must sail the battered ship while caring for her badly injured partner.