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End of the world scenario movies are falling from the skies these days at an accelerated rate, and while some have found intriguing ways to add some cleverness to the premise, most are recycled plots and characters that do little to advance the genre. With Go North, like many that have come before, that scenario is less important than the what happens afterwards, and while the film casts a wide net in trolling for a metaphor, it has an interesting view on how the next generation might run their own world if left behind by those who should be raising them.
In an unspecified time, something has wiped out every human over twenty-years olds. We meet a large band of children who have built a small community around a dilapidated school with the older teens teaching the younger one about survival, from setting broken bones to building traps and more, including dismantling IEDs, hinting that there are dangers beyond their borders. These older ones rule with an iron fist, making the younger ones work like slaves to provide for the rest.
Among these younger ones is Josh (Jacob Lofland), a teenager between the youngest and the older ones who is disillusioned by the situation. When he stops an older boy from raping Jessie (Sophie Kennedy Clark), he fears reprisal, as the punishments are severe, including banishment. He also has noticed that the supplies of food and firewood are too low to sustain the clan through the winter, and has made a plan to get out, asking Jessie to leave with him. There are rumors that salvation lies to the north, so with all they can carry, secretly head away in hope of a better life.
Directed by Matthew Ogens, Go North is a decidedly dark and unrelenting vision of a post-apocalyptic planet, even though it pulls back on opportunities to truly make it harrowing, instead keeping it toned down for what is surely the intended audience. Far from an action film, it is for the most part a slow moving chase movie as Josh and Jessie try to stay one step ahead of Jessie’s brother Caleb (Patrick Schwarzenegger), the de facto ruler of the children who tries to hold together something that is barely containable.
Shot on location in the ruined, abandoned neighborhoods of Detroit, the rundown and graffiti-strewn buildings make for a visually satisfying setting though feel far too overgrown and decimated for the timeline, which seems to be very recent as the suggestion of the first winter and a few flashbacks depicting the first wave of the disaster showing Josh the same age reveal. A pulsing techno-tronic score also attempts to add more tension than exists, and the crisp dialogue is filled with short, expositional blurbs that fill in the gaps.
Ogens is all about the look here though, filming in rich, saturated colors that at least give the tropes of the genre a brighter façade. It is certainly good to look at yet there is a disjointed flow to it all as scenes are cut sharply with rising and falling musical queues and blocky narrative moments that are all very close to the same length. The actors too are, like most in these YA films, far too beautiful, with none convincing as children left on their own, all a little too groomed and dressed too cleanly and fashionable to be survivors living off the land, but that is not what it’s about. Less concerned with the reasons and meaning behind the event, it is far more focused on if Josh and Jessie can outrun their pursuers.
That all said, Go North remains an interesting watch, if for anything, Ogens solid direction and the promise of the premise. There are good ideas here, and while it’s peppered with inconsistencies and can’t elevate itself above others in the genre, it has a conviction to it that resonates.
Movie description: Go North is a 2017 adventure drama about the aftermath of an unknown calamity that has left the Earth without any adults, descending the survivors into a world of chaos.
Director(s): Matthew Ogens
Actor(s): Patrick Schwarzenegger, Jacob Lofland, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Genre: Drama, Thriller