Making the Grades
Following the death of her mother in a traumatic car accident, 10-year-old Amy Alden (Anna Paquin) is reluctantly brought from New Zealand to Canada so she can live with her estranged father. Adjusting to this new arrangement is difficult for both of them, as Tom (Jeff Daniels) tries to make room for his daughter in his cluttered bachelor lifestyle, and Amy's grief keeps her from wanting to bond to anyone.
Tom's already clumsy efforts to settle the sorrowing girl into life on his Ontario farm are further hampered when some greedy land developers destroy the neighborhood's peace by knocking down trees and trampling wildlife. However, it is in the aftermath of their destruction that Amy discovers a nest of orphaned goose eggs, which begin to awaken her dormant sense of attachment.
Doing what her heart dictates, the young girl brings the eggs home and attempts to incubate them in a dresser drawer. A few days later, a gaggle of goslings are eagerly following in her every footstep. Realizing she is the only mother they know, Amy takes on her new role and does her best to care for the fluffy grey chicks. But when they exchange their down for feathers, the novice mom acknowledges she will need some extra expertise if she is to teach her gangly family how to fly and eventually migrate.
With the help of her father, some of his friends and a couple of ultra-light aircraft, Amy hatches a plan to save her geese. Along the way she will also preserve a wetland, make the national news, and have an opportunity to connect with her dad.
This may sound like a sentimental coming-of-age story, yet superior writing and cinematography have this film soaring well above similar movies. With only a few content concerns (which include a few mild profanities, an implied live-in relationship, and some blatant disrespect for the law when the Aldens meet up with an ornery game warden), Fly Away Home provides near perfect family entertainment. The script offers children the security of a predictable ending, adds a few twists to make things more interesting and realistic for older viewers, and illustrates the joy to be found when "birds of a feather flock together."
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Fly Away Home.
In the movie, there are several times when the characters are in disagreement with authority figures. What various means do they use to respond? Which of their approaches are legal and which are not? How would you react if you felt a law was unjust? Is it ever acceptable to break the law?
Fly Away Home is loosely based on a real life event, where ultra-light aircraft were used to teach a group of Canadian geese how to migrate. This technique was later used to help endangered birds that had been raised in captivity. To learn more about the remarkable work being done by scientist and conversationalists, check out the site of Operation Migration at: http://www.operationmigration.org/