Sometimes a film has a performance so riveting that it seems to stop the narrative flow. Donald Sutherland in James Burke’s Aurora Borealis, which I recently saw at the USA Film Festival, gave such a performance.
However, the narrative was not broken; instead, a spell was uttered, and we forgot that Sutherland was Sutherland. Perhaps, the magic was accomplished through the director’s unified vision and the superb performances of the entire cast.
The story is about Duncan Shorter, played by Joshua Jackson, a young man at a crossroads. He has failed at nearly everything he has put his hand to but when his dying grandfather (Sutherland) moves into a retirement home in Minneapolis with his faithful and loving wife, played by Louise Fletcher, Duncan, unlike his successful brother, takes up the burden of caring for them.
Kate, a health care giver, played by Juliette Lewis, provides Duncan a love interest. Juliette Lewis admitted after the film that the role of Kate was new for her. Kate is self-assured, self-confidant, and mature. As Lewis said, “she is a grown woman.” She also admitted it was a type of role that she hasn’t always played and that was what attracted her to the part.
Because there were so many minor characters, I feel that it necessary to emphasize that one of the film's greatest strengths is that it is even and well paced and that every minor character possesses resonance.
I had not heard of James Burke before I saw the film but he provided a mature and touching story.