(“a little child shall lead them” [Isaiah 11:6] film review by Timothy J. Verret)
I absolutely love this film! Why? Because it’s Biblically applicable to “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). It’s the story of a “little child” (Amy) who leads south the abandoned geese she finds and takes care of, because they cannot migrate any other way than Amy’s way (and God’s Way).
Before Amy comes to be “a little child shall lead them,” her mother dies in a car accident. Amy is forced to go live with her estranged father who is an inventor of all things (not ironic, in my opinion, that Jesus is also an inventor [carpenter] of all things). The adjustment of Amy to this new situation comes with many toils and troubles (BOTH), particularly learning to love the father who abandoned her and her mother. Maybe it is exactly this abandonment that leads Amy to the estranged geese who need a mother (and a father). When geese are born, they follow whoever it is that they first see when hatched. This stage of their development is called “imprinting.” No matter where Amy goes, the geese are sure to follow….and they do! That is until it’s time for the geese to head south for migratory purposes. But how are the geese to fly south when their mother, Amy, cannot fly? That’s where Amy’s estranged father comes in. The inventor of all things invents for Amy a “flight bird” machine that she will fly many distances for the geese to “fly away home.” And this invention actually allows a reinvention of the relationship between Amy and her estranged father to also fly, i.e., to “fly home” as a reinvented family.
I kid you not that the cinematography of this film is absolutely gorgeous! It was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar), no big surprise there. And it isn’t just the surroundings and the “fly away home” that are gorgeous. It is also the hatching of the geese and their imprinting with Amy that is truly stellar. The camerawork brings the audience to an imprinting as well, as we follow the family of Amy and her geese (BOTH) wherever they go. It makes us feel like we part of their family, too. The film is so lovely and so simple in its exploration of what it means to care for someone (BOTH humans and nonhuman animals) and to be selflessly inclined to follow a course to the very end in that act of selflessness. Amy is “a little child shall lead them,” as only she can lead her geese home. Amy’s selfless act reminds all of us about being “a little child shall lead them” when it comes to “the least of these” who need to fly (or walk or crawl or whatever) away (or to) Home.
Anna Paquin is a true marvel as Amy. Paquin stunned an audience and a world when she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for THE PIANO (1993) at only 11 years old! Here in this film at only 13 years old, Paquin is the epitome of that childlike innocence that reaches out to those motherless (and fatherless). Even Amy herself is fatherless when it comes to her estranged father. But, once again, because of her selfless act in leading her geese to fly away home, she flies forward to build a closer relationship with her estranged father. It’s very much like a “fly it forward,” in that Amy “flies it forward” to her geese and, in the process, is “flown forward” to build a new love with her estranged father. Jeff Daniels plays Amy’s father and Dana Delaney (a personal favorite actress of mine since the TV series, CHINA BEACH), plays Daniels’ love interest.
The trip south with Amy and her geese leaves us breathless. The journey by camerawork (cinematography, once again) is breathless. Many in the film cheer Amy and her geese on, and so do we! What is really breathless, though, is the final arrival south of Amy and her geese. Coupled with the music and song, “10,000 Miles” by Mary Chapin Carpenter (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8M8lssnf44), the final moments of the film brought many tears to my eyes and many breaths held in my lungs. “My goodness, God” I thought to myself at the end of this film. “If a ‘little child’ like Amy can be selfless and lead home 10,000 miles those who are alone and ‘the least of these,’ what excuse could I ever give not to do the very same.”
FLY AWAY HOME is a film for BOTH children and adults. It leaves BOTH with the hopeful and uplifting message that “a little child shall lead them,” and Amy selflessly does this with her geese. And, to “Fly Away Home” this message from the film, what excuse could we ever give not to selflessly be “a little shall lead them” (BOTH humans and nonhuman animals) Home, even 10,000 miles, ourselves?