Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

5.0 1
Director: James Burke

Cast: James Burke, Joshua Jackson, Donald Sutherland, Juliette Lewis

Duncan (Joshua Jackson), a depressed twentysomething living in a rundown section of Minneapolis, has just lost another job. He has another source of income, letting his brother use his apartment for extramarital trysts. On a rare visit to his grandparents, Ronald (Donald Sutherland) and Ruth (Louise Fletcher), Duncan meets Kate (Juliette Lewis), Ronald's spirited home


Duncan (Joshua Jackson), a depressed twentysomething living in a rundown section of Minneapolis, has just lost another job. He has another source of income, letting his brother use his apartment for extramarital trysts. On a rare visit to his grandparents, Ronald (Donald Sutherland) and Ruth (Louise Fletcher), Duncan meets Kate (Juliette Lewis), Ronald's spirited home health-care worker. Later, when Duncan learns that there's an opening for a handyman in the building, he takes the job. He begins to spend more time with his grandparents, hanging out with Ronald, who, among his many health problems, suffers from Parkinson's disease. He also has occasion to see Kate, and the two cautiously begin a romantic relationship. Kate is "one of those people," as Duncan puts it, who moved to Minneapolis because of the Replacements. Unlike Duncan, who has never left Minneapolis, Kate has never stayed in any one place for too long. She's anxious to get out and explore the world, while Duncan seems immobilized. Yet they connect, if only for a time. As Duncan reconnects with his grandparents and grows more intimate with Kate, he begins to deal with his grief over the sudden death of his father. Meanwhile, with his health deteriorating, Ronald begins to think of ending his life, and turns to his grandson for help. Aurora Borealis was directed by James Burke from an original screenplay by Brent Boyd. The film had its world premiere at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Compared to your typical depressive slacker drama, James Burke's Aurora Borealis has a few things in its favor. First, it has a very specific sense of place. The film milks its icy Vikings-obsessed Minneapolis location for all its worth, both visually and thematically. There's also a very strong performance by Donald Sutherland as the main character's Parkinson's-riddled grandfather. Sutherland takes what could have been a bathetic role as a sickly, sentimental, and suicidal man and fully humanizes Ronald. The script helps here, filling in the emotional and biographical details that make this a memorable character. Juliette Lewis is also on hand, and though she can be a mannered performer, her buoyancy works here. Her one-line dissection of a believably awful Thanksgiving dinner -- "the family tension, the sweaters, the little marshmallows on the desserts..." -- is flawlessly delivered. Her high energy as Kate keeps the film from becoming maudlin. Aurora Borealis has considerable flaws. Joshua Jackson doesn't make much of a strong impression in the lead, and the ending, particularly the way Ronald's story plays out, is a total copout, negating the startling emotional honesty that came before. But the film still resonates, as Burke gets a lot of mileage out of simple, effective compositions, and fine work with his cast.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Liberation Ent
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Production commentary; Interviews with the cast and crew; Isolated music track

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joshua Jackson Duncan Shorter
Donald Sutherland Ronald
Juliette Lewis Kate
Louise Fletcher Ruth
Zack Ward Lindstrom
John Kapelos Stu
Steven Pasquale Jacob

Technical Credits
James Burke Director
Rick Bieber Producer
Brent Boyd Screenwriter
Mychael Danna Score Composer
Scott Disharoon Producer
Anne Dixon Costumes/Costume Designer
Walter Gasparovic Asst. Director
Barry Isenor Art Director
Alar Kivilo Cinematographer
Jayne Amelia Larson Associate Producer
Monika Mikkelsen Casting
Richard Nord Editor
Richard Penn Sound/Sound Designer
Frankie Pine Musical Direction/Supervision
Taavo Soodor Production Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Aurora Borealis
1. My Apartment [4:45]
2. Grandpa's Little Helper [6:30]
3. An Emergency [4:39]
4. Get on the Bus, Gus [6:32]
5. Want a Ride? [4:00]
6. Vikings Game [7:20]
7. Blow the Stink Off [5:53]
8. Thanksgiving [6:39]
9. Waking up Happy [5:28]
10. Sledding [7:42]
11. Crafty Old Matchmaker [5:58]
12. Adult Conversation [8:26]
13. Do You Think... ? [3:43]
14. Trip to the Restroom [6:53]
15. Enough of This! [6:31]
16. The Funeral [6:33]
17. Goodbye [5:35]
18. San Diego [6:39]


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Aurora Borealis 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
AURORA BOREALIS is a superb film by James Burke ('In Dark Places' and 'Tis a Gift to Be Simple') from a story by Brent Boyd ('The Green Room' and 'Crazy') and if this film is a sample of how these two fine talents collaborate, we can only hope for more. The cast assembled for this movie gives evidence that the actors deeply admire their vision: it is well deserved. The setting is winter in Minneapolis, the hometown of the Shorter family: Grandfather Ronald (Donald Sutherland), Grandmother Ruth (Louise Fletcher), and the two grandsons Duncan (Joshua Jackson) and Jacob (Steven Pasquale). The boys' father died at age 39 (10 years prior to the opening of the story) and both boys grew up on their own, feeling deserted by a father who had been a cocaine abuser at one time. Duncan had been a champion hockey player, but when his father died his goals diminished and he has been in and out of odd jobs without a solid look at his future. Jacob runs a nursing home business and when he is not working, he is bringing his girlfriends to Duncan's flat for trysts. Duncan cares for his grandfather Ronald who has multiple illnesses (Parkinson's Disease, dementia) yet who maintains a humble life with Ruth. As Ronald's condition deteriorates, Duncan takes a handyman's job in the complex where his grandparents live and during this time the two men bond more closely than ever: Ronald's fading mind sees northern lights from his apartment window and Duncan out of love and growing understanding lets him believe they are real. Ronald is aware of his mental instability and lets Duncan know that he would like to take his life with a shotgun, an idea Duncan prevents. Ronald and Ruth have a health care provider Kate (Juliette Lewis) whom they trust and love and encourage Duncan to seek out as a partner. Kate and Duncan date and fill the wide gaps in each other's personalities, yet when the opportunity comes for Kate to move to sunny San Diego, she is unable to make Duncan budge from his safe routine existence in Minneapolis. But as Duncan's resistance is broken down (he learns from a mentor that his father did not die of cocaine abuse, Ronald dies a natural death, etc), he views Kate as the person who can alter his outlook and his life. Every member of this cast is extraordinary: Donald Sutherland creates a man eaten by Parkinson's Disease and dementia without ever becoming a caricature, Louise Fletcher reminds us how self-effacing her acting has always been, Juliette Lewis turns in one of her most sensitive roles, and Joshua Jackson finds every nuance of the troubled but needy Duncan and engages our empathy. Each of the smaller rolls is likewise pitch perfect, no doubt due in large part to the sensitive direction of Burke. It is so refreshing to watch a film as meaningful in message and in skillful acting as this, a movie that restores our confidence in film as art. Highly recommended. Grady Harp