Sex on ice

Rated 4.0

A thoroughly engaging documentation of a year in the life of the Antarctic emperor penguin, this French film (made in association with National Geographic) follows the mating ritual of the birds as they trudge single-file with thousands of like kind 70 tortuous miles across the frozen wasteland to rendezvous at their traditional mating grounds.

Once there, they begin to, well, cruise. To someone with an anthropomorphic mindset, the penguins appear to be checking each other out: “Nope, too fat … beak’s too long … oh, oh—crazy eyes!” Waddling about in the flurrying snow, they look like babushkas scouring the market in search of beets for the borscht.

Once they hook up, the courtship begins. Oddly enough, it’s almost too voyeuristic to watch as they gaze demurely at each other like two shy teens on a first date where they both know they’re gonna do the nasty before the night is through. An egg is dropped (multiplied by untold numbers), then handed over to the fathers for caretaking, while the mothers waddle back the 70 miles to gorge on sustenance for the forthcoming chicks.

Back and forth they all go, through seemingly insurmountable odds. Eggs crack in the numbing cold, seals chomp on unwary mothers (dooming their chicks back home), and they just keep soldiering on and on and on.

A depressive type might view it all as an allegory for life in general, but more sunshiny types can view it as a triumph of will. Gorgeously and at times breathtakingly photographed, the film is aided immensely by the bemused tone of Morgan Freeman’s narration.