It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“Travelling North” tells the story of a curmudgeon in his 60s who marries for a second time and moves to a cottage on a lake in northern Australia where he can fish and listen to music on the radio and be happy for the days that are remaining to him. What he doesn’t figure on is that those days are numbered. But this isn’t a heartrending movie about how he puts up a brave fight against death. It’s about how he carries on just as before, stubborn and crusty, irascible and temperamental, and about how his wife and his friends love him anyway, most of the time.
The movie stars Leo McKern as its hero, Frank, who in his prime was a two-fisted union organizer but now likes to dream in the shade, play chess and wander around the house getting under the feet of Frances (Julia Blake), his second wife. She is a cheerful, competent woman some years younger than Frank, and she has to live with the consequences of his unilateral decision to live in Queensland, many hours from the families of her grown children in Melbourne. They are bitter about her decision to remarry, and feel abandoned, but Frances feels it’s time to live her own life for a change. The problem is, she seems to be living Frank’s instead.
They pack their things into an old van and point it north, and settle into a life of palm trees and verandas and fishing. Almost instantly they make a new friend, Freddie (Graham Kennedy), the next-door neighbor, who is friendly and nosy and opinionated and lonely. And before long, Frank makes another friend, Saul (Henri Szeps), the local doctor, who tells him he has a bad heart and should take good care of himself.
Nothing much really happens in “Traveling North,” in the sense of large events to move the plot ahead. It’s not a movie like “On Golden Pond,” in which deep truths are told and old wounds are healed.