Review: Ivalu

Written and directed by Anders Walter, co-directed by Pipaluk K. Jørgensen, Ivalu is gone. Her little sister is desperate to find her, her father does not care. The vast Greenlandic nature holds secrets, the search for Ivalu is on. Starring: Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann, Nivi Larsen and Angunnguaq Larsen.

Everything that you look for with atmospheric, sublime visuals and beautiful landscapes, you can find in Ivalu. Not only that but you’ll find it’s supported by a stunning use of sound, to give the fullest experience of this stunning setting. Those two elements immediately set up a key theme to this story, which is a connection to nature. It’s a widely established part of indigenous culture and the way that it’s represented here and how it guides you through the story is captivating, kind and open-hearted. It sets the tone so perfectly because the film has much more to offer and layers to unfold, establishing that initial openness, generosity and mindfulness makes the transition to a heavier and harsher tone very smooth.

The way that it progresses into truly heart-breaking territory is superb, it has such a natural, organic flow to its pacing. Having that stellar direction and cinematography creates an atmosphere which is entirely enveloping and digs deep so that when it does reveal itself, the impact is shattering. Part of that is having Pipaluk (Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann) as the story’s heart and guide. She has such an endearing and surprisingly wise presence, the character is written with an emotional maturity beyond her years. The entire package is one of thoughtfulness, even in its harsher moments the way that it’s presented doesn’t get caught up in the details but is looking at the bigger picture. Especially in how easily it would be to scandalize this story but Anders Walter makes the clever decision to avoid that entirely. It uses that harshness to contrast with the beauty of the setting and to create an unexpected amount of tension which tops off the atmosphere excellently.

With the focus so strongly landing on Pipaluk, it puts a great deal on the shoulders of Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann and she does this brilliant character the ultimate justice. She encapsulates that terrifically affecting presence effortlessly, you could happily go on watching her for a lot longer than sixteen minutes. There’s such a gentleness and compassion within her youth that it’s honestly impressive. Angunnguaq Larsen helps to bring out the lighter side, the film drifts through memories of the sisters together, as Larsen’s Ivalu tries to point Pipaluk in the right direction and impart her knowledge and their connection is something special.

Ivalu captures the beauty of its setting to perfection, it’s stunning to watch, its atmosphere embraces you with nature framed in such a thoughtful manner. Its story is layered, affecting and heart-breaking, it constantly has more to offer. Mila Heilmann Kreutzmann leads the way with an astounding presence that is rarely found in such young actors. There’s a brilliant tension that lingers beneath the surface before breaking through and hitting you full force. Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jørgensen create such a sincere depth, the weight and experience of this film is remarkable.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Shortlisted at the Academy Awards 2023 for ‘Best Live Action Short’

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