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Aurora Borealis

The Hardest Job to Hold

Duncan Shorter (Joshua Jackson) has a gift. He can seemingly get himself fired from just about any imaginable job in a timeframe that would make your jaw drop. How and why he does it is the mystery we begin with in Aurora Borealis.

Granted, the jobs Duncan takes on are far from enviable, but there is something to be said for remaining gainfully employed…even at a crap job. In stark contrast to Duncan is his corporate climbing, adulterous brother, Jacob (Steven Pasquale).

While Jacob has achieved a certain amount of success, the fact that he uses Duncan’s apartment for his late night liaisons while his wife and children think he’s working reveals all is not well with him either. So, what’s the deal with the Shorter family?

As director James Burke delves deeper into the Shorter family mystery, we learn that Jake and Duncan’s father suffered a premature death. Mom is out of the picture (for reasons that are somewhat unclear) and their father’s parents live in a nursing home.

After losing his latest crap job, Duncan takes a job as an assistant handyman at his grandparent’s assisted living facility. While spending time with his endearing, but rapidly deteriorating grandfather, Ronald (excellently played by Donald Sutherland), Duncan finds himself confronting his own arrested development while Ronald struggles to find meaning in the waning days of his life.

In the midst of these internal struggles, Duncan finds himself romantically entangled with Kate, a beautiful nurse who takes care of Ronald. Juliette Lewis shines as the life embracing Kate who forces Duncan to confront his internal stagnation. Joshua Jackson does a great job of taking a conceivably unlikable character and showing us the potential that draws Kate to him. It’s a romance that is flawed and as a result is believable and accessible for the most part.

Aurora Borealis tackles some pretty complex and emotional issues and director James Burke does a pretty solid job of handling all of the film’s complexities with skill and sensitivity. Aurora Borealis could have easily descended into a saccharine, overwrought mess. Credit Burke for keeping this ship afloat.

While one can presumably rationalize Duncan’s arrested development by attributing it to the death of his father, it does seem to be a bit of a stretch at times that he would have forgone college, a career as a professional hockey player, and just about everything in between as a result of this tragedy. Ultimately, it’s a minor issue for a film that excels in just about every facet.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars