Journey on the Wild Coast
Producer Greg Chaney
Reviewed byEd Douglas
DateTuesday, 24 January 2012
She's a bit bossy. He's a little dreamy and has a habit of dropping useful stuff. They are very much together. Few marriages get put through the wringer quite like this one. Erin McKittrick, as she as at pains to point out, came up with the idea of a year-long adventure, walking from Seattle to the Aleutians along a coastline that has more threats than you can wave a ski pole at. But it clearly didn't seem to take much for her to persuade husband Bretwood 'Hig' Higman to hurry up and finish his PhD so he could come along.
They use inflatable rubber rafts for the wet bits, otherwise they're on foot or skis, battling through the Alaskan winter and keeping a video diary as they go. After two minutes, I though, hmph, this is just a home-movie, but after three minutes I realised why this was so refreshing – and why the film has won awards and plaudits. Here, you feel, is an adventure you can at least imagine doing in a context – a husband and wife thinking about starting a family – that many of us will recognise. After that I settled down and was charmed.
This feeling for life's direction in the middle of a huge journey is a powerful combination. The threats are both real and existenstial. What do we want from life? Not to be eaten by a bear, that's for sure, a prospect that crops up a couple of times in their story, to chilling effect. I swear I saw one of the bears drooling. We also see McKittrick and Higman paddling away from a group of irate seals, the aquatic mammalian equivablent of football hooligans, jeering at these strange interlopers. David Attenborough would kill to narrate that kind of footage.
Even stranger is their arrival at Valdez. After being immersed in the wilderness, we are presented with the glaring orange lights of a city at night. The rhythm of their adventure is broken and we see what a gulf there is between living in nature and living with the comforts even adventurers take for granted. It's the kind of experience Chris McCandless was looking for in Into The Wild.
Most strange is coming across a film crew and stars of a reality show. A couple from New York are holed up in the middle of nowhere to see how they get on. Nothing is said, because it doesn't need to be. We're watching a reality show producers can only dream of making – sort of 'Help, a bear is trying to eat me and my wife wants to have a baby.' Only nothing is made up, nothing exagerrated. We're simply invited along on an extraordinary family vacation – and I do mean family.