Clare's Criterion Collection

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Paddle To The Sea – Review # 10


Whilst for sale & purchased via the Criterion Collection, this is a Janus Films edition

Available on DVD

Special Features:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer

Please note that whilst I try to not give away vital plot details/scenes/developments of the film, some reviews may contain mild spoilers.


I never thought I would find myself buying what is essentially a children’s film.  That said, I found the concept behind this film to be very interesting and as I now live in Canada and along the path of this film I felt a small connection.  So what did I think of this short (28 minutes) Oscar nominated film?

We start the journey in a cabin on the shore of Lake Superior.  We see Paddle (the name given to the boat) being carved from a piece of wood by a young boy with a dream.  As spring arrives and thaws away the harsh winter Paddle is soon skiing down, then tumbling down, the slope until he reaches the Lake.  From this point forward Paddle is “completely at the mercy of the wind and waves”.  He is also at the mercy of seagulls that want to eat him, a snake that slithers over him and a frog that tried to use him as a hiding place.

The one element he cannot escape is the weather and as the winter draws in he is frozen and disappears under a blanket of snow.  As with the start of his journey, it is only when the sun appears again in the spring is he set free to continue the journey.  A new danger is encountered, this time human!  Like the fish that share the Lakes and Rivers of his trip Paddle is caught on the end of a rod.  I have forgotten to mention the message carved into the base of the boat.  It reads:

“I am Paddle to the Sea: Please Put Me Back in the Water”

Thankfully, the young boy heeds this request, after a talk from his Father, and Paddle is released.

The big city is next and it is at this point the beauty of the world meets that harsh reality of what we doing to the planet, even back in the mid 60’s, when this film was made.  We see the pollution and filth created by man being pumped into the Lake.  We also see the biggest tourist attraction along the Great Lakes, Niagara Falls.  It was rather nice to have a birds-eye view of what it would be like to go over Horseshoe Falls.

As Paddle heads out down the St Lawrence River towards the Atlantic Ocean he encounters a few more hazards in the shape of a beaver, a deer, a child and thankfully, a dog that wasn’t in the mood to play “fetch”.  His last human contact (as far as we see in the film) takes him to a lighthouse where he is given a fresh coat of paint and then returned to the water.

I wonder what became of Paddle.  Is he still out there, drifting in the ocean?  I asked at the start what I thought of the film, well I found it to be everything I expected and as scenic as I had hoped.  Even as someone in their 30’s, I could appreciate this film and greatly enjoyed.  If you are to watch, I hope you do too.

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