director: Miranda de Pencier (debut)
starring: Ben Schnetzer, Emerald MacDonald, Booboo Stewart and Paul Nutarariaq
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Lacrosse transforms the lives of Inuit students when they learn how to play the game.
Outside of my film review hobby, my day job is working with disenfranchised and at risk young people. And from my experience I can attest that The Grizzlies is about as close to that reality as a celluloid will allow. While the film has moments of triumph, The Grizzlies doesn’t shy away from the horrendous moments either delivering us a film that roars with beauty and authenticity.
Miranda de Pencier’s directorial debut tells the inspiring true story of how a group of Inuit high school students living in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, a small arctic town in Canada with the highest teen suicide rate in North America, transform their lives and community after their teacher starts a youth lacrosse team. Together as “The Grizzlies", the players learn to lead each other, gain the support of their deeply divided town, and look to compete in the National Lacrosse Championships. And in the process, these youth become the teachers, of their coach and each other, proving to themselves and now the world that it really isn’t ‘win or lose’, but being together in the game.
The Grizzlies is not some sentimental, triumphing over the odds kinda movie. It does have its moments of unbridled joy, of triumphing over the odds but it never feels Hollywood-ized. It feels raw and real, and as the film progresses you have to remind yourself that this is a fictional account of real people and events and not a documentary.
And the new idealistic teacher Russ Sheppard isn’t some white saviour coming to ‘save’ the native peoples, the film shows him having to learn some pretty harsh lessons and adapt to their culture instead of the other way around.
The film develops the vast cast of characters with great care which results in us caring deeply about the outcome of a lot of the people in the film. There are also moments of great beauty on display in the hunting techniques of the Inuit, the community rallying around the kids in the lacrosse team and in the way they come together after tragedy. This film is a reminder about taking small steps that lead to triumph. A message that is greatly needed today. Make sure you get to The Grizzlies. It will entertain you, move you deeply and pack a punch that smart for days to come.
While the film has moments of triumph, The Grizzlies doesn’t shy away from the horrendous moments either delivering us a film that roars with beauty and authenticity that packs a punch that will smart for days.