A Reindeer’s Journey Parent Guide
This film has much to recommend it, including lush visuals, a haunting soundtrack, compelling animal subjects, and numerous positive themes.
Parent Movie Review
When a reindeer calf is born, it has five minutes to stand up, five minutes to learn to walk, and five minutes to learn to run or swim. The arctic environment of Finland’s Lapland region is unforgiving and calves must learn quickly in order to survive. If the calf is born early, before the mother has reached the calving grounds, the urgency is even greater.
A Reindeer’s Journey tells the story of a little reindeer named Aïlo (Aye-EE-lo). Beginning with his early birth, the movie follows him through the hazardous trip to the calving grounds, the frolics of the brief Finnish summer, and the early winter trek to the windswept frozen peaks where the members of the herd will scavenge for lichen until they start their spring migration once again.
This northern circle of life falls somewhere between documentary and animal adventure story. Donald Sutherland’s narration gives the animals human-like emotions and relationships, but only to a point. There is no imagined dialogue between the animals and no attempt to imagine a plot beyond that created by nature. Sadly, the narration is the production’s weakest point: although Sutherland’s voice is charming, the text sounds like it has been translated - not always successfully - from the original French script. There are no obvious grammatic errors, but there are tonal shifts that I can only chalk up to cultural or linguistic quirks that simply can’t be rendered in another language.
Although the script isn’t always successful, the cinematography is magnificent. Stunning vistas, from windswept mountain tops to forests filled with snow to the fjords, will leave viewers spellbound with the majestic landscapes of Lapland. This movie is worth watching for the visuals alone.
The heart of the movie is the animals and Aïlo shares the spotlight with a lonely Arctic fox, an evasive hare, a mother wolf teaching her young to hunt, a distractible wolverine, several apparently caffeinated squirrels and a stoat who is clearly the meth-head of the Lapland forest. There are also unfortunate lemmings (“the chicken nuggets of the woods”), who are hunted and caught by predators.
Given the natural cycle of predator and prey, parents might be concerned about showing this movie to their little ones. But rest assured, only easily frightened preschoolers will be troubled with Aïlo’s journey. There is some scary music, the reindeer and other animals are pursued by wolves, wolverines, and birds of prey, but actual kills are not shown and no blood or corpses are seen in any detail. Kids are more likely to be bored by the movie’s slow pacing than upset by the realities of the food chain.
Pacing issues aside, A Reindeer’s Journey has much to recommend it, including lush visuals, a haunting soundtrack, compelling animal subjects, and explicit messages about perseverance, courage, and self-confidence. And watching icicles build up on the reindeers’ antlers will give all family members a sense of profound gratitude for their comfortable homes.Directed by Guillaume Maidatchevsky. Starring Donald Sutherland. Running time: 86 minutes. Theatrical release November 15, 2019. Updated November 11, 2019
Watch the trailer for A Reindeer’s Journey
A Reindeer’s Journey
Rating & Content Info
Why is A Reindeer’s Journey rated Not Rated? A Reindeer’s Journey is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: There are multiple scenes of animals being hunted by other animals: a stoat hunts a lemming, an owl captures a lemming, a fox hunts a hare, wolves and wolverines chase reindeer. Two dead reindeer are seen under ice, having been trapped in the water when their antlers locked. Wolves are seen eating a dead reindeer; no detail. Birds are seen eating a dead reindeer calf; no detail. There is mention of a reindeer running into a deep river to escape mosquitoes, only to drown. Scary, ominous music is played on a few occasions in the film. Male reindeer duel over females: they crash their antlers together.
Sexual Content: There is brief mention of males dueling for the right to mate with female reindeer.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated November 11, 2019
A Reindeer’s Journey Parents' Guide
The movie mentions that climate change is causing more reindeer to calve early or late. How does climate change affect regions in the far North?
BBC: Climate change: Arctic reindeer numbers crash by half
Climate Institute: Climate Change Threatens Reindeer and Arctic People
World Wildlife Fund: Is Climate Change Threatening the Saami Way of Life?
Climateguide.fi: Climate change and the Finnish Sami
The reindeer are frightened by logging equipment and we learn that logging roads disrupt their traditional migration routes. Do you think there can be a compromise between economic development and protection of the reindeer?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If your youngsters are fascinated by the wildlife in this movie, they will want to read Katie Marisco’s Reindeer (A Day in the Life: Polar Animals). The same series also include Arctic Fox.
For another arctic fox story, try The Arctic Fox’s Journey. This picture book by Wendy Pfeffer and Morgan Huff follows a fox on a 2000 mile journey across the tundra.
Related home video titles:
For more frozen nature drama, try watching Penguins. This movie also has documentary style footage but it’s combined with an explicitly comical script. March of the Penguins is a more traditional documentary style movie about Antarctica’s most popular creature.