Four days ago, my blog received 245 followers! To everyone who helped 18 Cinema Lane become this successful, thank you! None of this could have been a reality without you. BYU-TV recently aired Luna: Spirit of the Whale on their network. Because I don’t get many opportunities to talk about films that feature Native American stories, I felt this film would make a good selection for this blog follower dedication review! The movie is one I had never heard of prior to this year. So, this was also a great chance to expand my cinematic horizons! As I’ve said on multiple occasions, I try to give lesser-known films a “standing ovation”. Luna: Spirit of the Whale is one of those films, as I didn’t see any other blogger on WordPress talk about this movie. By choosing to review this project at all, it will hopefully give this movie a little more recognition than it might be currently receiving.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: While watching Luna: Spirit of the Whale, I noticed strong performances within this cast! One of them came from Adam Beach, who portrayed the protagonist, Mike Maquinna! Throughout the film, Adam did a good job giving his character a wide range of emotions. In one scene, Mike is happy to take a youth named Adam on a short canoe trip. In another scene, Mike is tearfully reflecting on a regret from his past. These emotions helped make Adam’s character well-rounded! Speaking of the aforementioned youth, I also liked Aaron Miko’s portrayal of Adam! A sense of believability is what made this performance enjoyable to watch! With the emotions, facial expressions, and body language, Aaron was able to show the audience that his character had experienced so much in his young life. Prior to watching Luna: Spirit of the Whale, I have seen Erin Karpluk’s performances in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Fixer Upper Mystery series. While she’s in the film for a certain amount of time, the acting material Erin was given in this film was different from the aforementioned series. This is because her performance was allowed to be more dramatic. Erin was able to use that opportunity to her advantage by creating a portrayal that was interesting to watch!
The scenery: As someone who has seen many Hallmark movies, I know that Canada has a reputation for showcasing great scenery! Luna: Spirit of the Whale is no exception to this. Most of the scenery revolves around the water, as the story focuses on a whale. Anytime these scenes appeared in the film, they were appealing to look at! The green hues of the surrounding trees compliment the blues and grays of the water. More often than not, a clear sky enveloped the entire space. Some scenes took place on the shore, an area that was also photogenic! The rocky edge and calm waters set the stage for an inviting place! It really did look like a backdrop you’d see in a Hallmark movie!
The incorporation of Native American culture: Because some of the characters in Luna: Spirit of the Whale are from a Native American/First Nations community, elements of Native American culture are found in this story. The way they are incorporated into the movie is not only educational, but also insightful. These elements are showcased in a reverent and respectful way. During Chief Ambrose Maquinna’s funeral, two men were dressed in wolf fur and crawled on the ground in front of the procession. Before this shot was shown in the film, Mike explains that this particular community believes a deceased chief will have his spirit carried through a wolf (protector of the land) or a whale (protector of the sea). Before any of the canoes go out into the water, a blessing is placed on them, complete with a series of chants. Traditional chants also play a role during the story’s climax.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An unclear time period: According to IMDB, Luna: Spirit of the Whale was released in 2007. Erin Karpluk’s character, Jill, mentions that some people have discovered the story of Luna the whale through the internet. However, all of the televisions in this film look older than 2007. On a canoe trip, one of the youths pulls out a camcorder that appears to have been sold sometime in the 1990s. Everything I just said made it difficult to decipher when this story took place.
A somewhat meandering story: The movie’s main conflict is about a Native American/First Nations community’s attempt to protect a whale they believe physically embodies the spirit of their deceased chief. While this conflict was interesting to see unfold, it didn’t appear until about forty minutes into the film. Personally, I feel this conflict should have been introduced a lot sooner. This not only could have helped the narrative get straight-to-the-point, but it also could have shaved off some of the run-time.
Some scenes that lasted too long: There were some scenes in this film that felt longer than necessary. The scenes where the characters were in the canoes suffered the most from this flaw. Because these scenes emphasized the scenery surrounding the characters, it caused the plot to feel delayed. Scenes like these could have benefited by being shortened.
My overall impression:
Native American stories are not often found in mainstream cinema. This fact can cause movie-goers to look beyond the surface and seek out titles located off the beaten path. Luna: Spirit of the Whale is a part of this discussion, as the film is not well-known. Despite this, I found it to be a fine, decent movie! The elements of Native American culture were incorporated in a reverent and respectful way, while also being educational and insightful. Watching the film’s main conflict unfold was interesting to see, even if it did start later than I would have liked. But if someone were looking for Native American stories told through a cinematic lens, I would recommend Luna: Spirit of the Whale! Finding likable films on BYU-TV is always a treat, so I do appreciate the network’s efforts to introduce their audience to various titles! If I hadn’t came across this film, I might never have discovered it.
Overall score: 7.2 out of 10
Do you have a favorite Native American story told through film? Are there any you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!