The Grizzlies (AU - M/US - R)

In a Word: Optimistic

The Grizzlies

A scene from The Grizzlies. 

A moving and gritty portrayal of life among the Inuits in far-north Canada, The Grizzlies, based on a true story, tells the story of a newly graduated teacher forced to go to the Arctic Circle town of Kugluktuk for his first post, a year at the local high school.

Russ Sheppard (played by Ben Schnetzer) has high hopes when he arrives in the ice-bound town - and is already looking forward to his next job, a cosy position at a sought-after prep-school down south, but quickly finds himself brought down to reality as he confronts the reality of family violence, alcohol abuse and the highest suicide rate in Canada, all part of daily life in the town where the residents are still suffering from the trauma of their childhood in government and church-run institutions. 

"A cross between inspirational teaching films like Stand and Deliver and sporting films like The Blind Side, The Grizzlies is a warm-hearted celebration of the possibilities of change and what can happen when we're prepared to put aside our preconceptions and engage with understanding another world. It's confronting to watch but ultimately a story of hope about what can happen when people are determined to make a difference. "

Realising that a traditional approach to teaching won't work, Sheppard is determined to engage the kids through Lacrosse (which we learn is the national sport of Canada and was originally played among Inuit tribes). Assisted by his teaching colleague Mike (Will Sasso), Shepherd brings the local school boys together around the game and ever so slowly starts to see a change take place as a new sense of hope begins to stir, not just among the kids, but in the community at large.

It's not an easy journey - there are planety of setbacks - and Sheppard spends much of his time trying to better understand the culture of the community in which he now lives and to find a path forward for the children he's come to care deeply about while the Inuit community navigate their way to a future that respects their traditions but allows positive change to take place.

Schnetzer handles the role - and evolution of the character of Sheppard - well, ably supported by Sasso and Tantoo Cardinal as the school's world-weary and guarded principal. There's also some stellar performances by young actors including Paul Nutarariaq as Zach, Booboo Stewart as Kyle, Ricky Marty-Pahtaykan as Adam, Emerald MacDonald as Miranda and Anna Lambe as Spring.

A cross between inspirational teaching films like Stand and Deliver and sporting films like The Blind Side, The Grizzlies is a warm-hearted celebration of the possibilities of change and what can happen when we're prepared to put aside our preconceptions and engage with understanding another world. It's confronting to watch but ultimately also a story of hope about what can happen when people are determined to make a difference.

This is one not to miss.

To find out where it's screening head to www.thegrizzliesmovie.com.au.