My first impression of The Sun at Midnight was a lot like Lia’s (Devery Jacobs) initial reaction to Ft. McPherson. The film opens on a strained conversation between father and sulking daughter about “Why do I have to go stay with Grandma anyway?” As first scenes go, this one is a lot like how Lia would likely describe her new home. Dull and lame. The acting and writing are flat and obvious. Luckily, it gets better.

The story of a spoiled city kid learning life lessons by being taken out of their comfort zone has been done to death, but The Sun at Midnight slowly began to earn my respect by sparing us some of the seemingly inevitable clichés. I first realized that I had been misjudging this movie when I saw Lia interact with her grandmother. Despite REALLY not wanting to be there, she doesn’t act rude or bratty to her grandma (unless you count stealing her canoe) as I would have expected. Similarly, Grandma (Sarah Jerome) doesn’t even mock Lia’s pink hair or city ways. This isn’t that kind of movie.

Lia and Alfred (Duane Howard) may seem like unlikely allies in their search for caribou and, of course, they start out as reluctant travel buddies. Still, their relationship doesn’t follow the usual pattern of ups and downs that you might expect. Their alliance, like this film for the most part, follows its own rhythm. I have no idea why director Kirsten Carthew opened The Sun at Midnight with such a flat and unconvincing scene but her script, with a little help from credible performances from Howard and Jacobs, and some beautiful shots of the Northwest Territories, comes alive in ways that I couldn’t have expected.

Sunday, October 23, 1:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the ImagineNATIVE website.