Sunday, June 1, 2014
At its onset the film movingly captures the tenderness of a mother's love as Sky nurses her two fragile newborns in their den. You can't help but ooh and ahh over the cubs adorable squeaks or the sight of the delicate pink pads of their tiny cub paws, while simultaneously pondering how the heck the filmmakers even managed to get the shots we were being privileged to witness. As the cubs finally grow a little stronger, it becomes time to finally make the perilous journey from the snow-covered mountain top location of Sky's den, specificially selected to be away from any kind of predators, down to sea level in order to forage for food and fish for salmon. The trek is a sight to behold with sweeping shots showing the beauty of mountains covered in glistening snow, while perfectly demonstrating the counterbalance of beauty and mother nature's power as Sky and her cubs come dangerously close to an avalanche.
Dangers come in all shapes and sizes as Sky and her young arrive at a beautiful meadow already inhabited by others of their kind, including menacing Magnus, the local alpha-male who's not above eating a bear cub if hungry enough. Sky vigilantly watches over Amber and Scout, who at such a tender age are still vulnerable to wolves and other prey starving after a long and harsh winter. Through Reilly's charming and folksy narration each one of this bear family is bestowed with a personality of their own; Amber is a mama's girl and never strays from her mother's sight, while adventurous Scout is another story, always trailing behind in order to investigate and on more than one occasion ending up in trouble, and Sky, well what can you say other than that she's a mom and has all the characteristics that this title entails - for humans or in this case bears - she's dedicated, brave, and selfless.
As with all bears, the ever-pressing need is to build up their fat reserves in the spring, summer and fall in order to last through the long winter's hibernation. As the seasons pass and the start of winter draws closer, Sky is starving and weak, since she's still nursing Amber and Scout, but she doesn't give up as she valiantly fights other bears, a wily and ever-lurking wolf named Tikaani intent on doing in her cubs, as well as her own hunger and desperation in order to save her young as they search for the golden pond; the promised land for bears where salmon are plentiful and they can eat to their hearts content.
The film really is incredible. The magnitude and awe-inspiring majesty of the Alaskan landscape is reason enough to watch this film, but it is Sky, Amber and Scout's tale which makes it gripping as there is real suspense in their struggles for survival. The cinematography is masterful; as you witness and marvel at the jaw-dropping skill and dedication it must have taken to film each picture-perfect shot.