The Other Side of the Ice: Film Review

Other Side of the Ice - P - 2013
The home movie-like documentary quickly proves wearisome, despite the occasional visual glories.

Sprague Theobald documents the ultimate family vacation -- an 8,900 mile ocean journey through the Northwest Passage.

Thought your last family vacation was tough going? Well, it probably pales in comparison to the outing chronicled in The Other Side of the Ice, filmmaker Sprague Theobald’s cinematic account of the 8,500 mile, five month voyage through the waters of the Northwest Passage undertaken in 2009 by him and his grown children. Part adventure saga, part elaborate home movie, the documentary showcases both the emotional and physical pitfalls faced by this emotionally fraught crew.

Theobald, whose extensive nautical experience includes three years on the American Cup yacht Intrepid, had long dreamed about making the perilous journey. Joined by his three estranged children, a ship captain who’s also his daughter’s boyfriend, and a professional cinematographer, he set off on the Arctic trip from Newport, Rhode Island to Seattle on a 57-foot trawler.

Personal tensions quickly dominate the proceedings, as the sibling bicker, the captain and the daughter snipe at each other and the photographer departs the vessel in Greenland to be replaced by another. Much of this strife is recounted in direct addresses to the camera by Theobald and the various other participants, giving the film an awkward reality-show flavor as if it was the latest edition of Survivor.

It all quickly proves wearisome, despite the occasional visual glories provided by shots of the magnificent icy vistas and frolicking polar bears. Frustratingly, the details of the icy voyage itself--including the ship being stuck in ice for a week--are only sketchily rendered, as if they were a mere afterthought to the less than compelling personal interactions that are afforded far too much screen time.  

Production: Hole in the Wall Productions

Director/screenwriter/executive producer: Sprague Theobald      

Producers: Misha Spivack, Hunter Steinman, Sprague Theobald

Directors of photography/editors: Misha Spivack, Hunter Steinman

Composer: Josh Allen

Not rated, 77 min.