Kayak to Klemtu

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Kayak to Klemtu Movie Poster Image
Drama with pro-environment message has some cursing.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The importance and necessity of community. Protecting the environment. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

In memory of her late uncle, Ella is determined to undertake the long kayak trip to Klemtu in order to speak on behalf of the environment, her community, and her heritage. 


Brief shot of a bear that had been skinned by hunters. 


Occasional profanity: "S--t," "crap," "damn," "bastard," "hell," "Jesus," "goddamn." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In the middle of a lengthy tirade about "environmentalists," cranky Uncle makes reference to marijuana smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kayak to Klemtu is a 2018 drama about a teen girl who goes on a long kayak trip with her extended family in order to speak out against an oil pipeline. Some scenes may be too emotionally intense for some viewers, particularly those who have recently lost a loved; the kayak trip is also being undertaken so Ella can scatter her recently-deceased uncle's ashes in the waters. Occasional profanity includes "s--t," "crap," "damn," "bastard," "hell," "Jesus," and "goddamn." One reference to marijuana smoking. Two hunters arrive and show the teen boy lead character a bear they had recently skinned, a sight and action that clearly offends and upsets the teen. Overall, the movie has many positive messages on protecting the environment, the importance and necessity of community, and lending a helping hand to others. 

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What's the story?

In KAYAK TO KLEMTU, Ella is a 14-year-old girl taking on two challenging tasks, both at the behest of her recently-deceased Uncle Dave. Before passing, Dave asked her to scatter his ashes along the waters of their ancestral grounds, and requested that she speak in his place at a community hearing in their home village of Klemtu against a proposed oil pipeline in these same waters. Now she's planning to take the long journey via kayak, with the help of three members of her family: her cranky but practical Uncle Don, Aunt Cory, a nervous schoolteacher who was married to Dave, and her slacker teen cousin Jean. The journey is more difficult than Ella anticipated, but along the way she bonds with her extended family like never before, and experiences firsthand the beauty and grandeur of her people's land.

Is it any good?

This film works best when the story is presented through action and scenery. The beauty and grandeur of the Inside Passage near the coast of British Columbia "says" it so much better than any monologue or dialogue presented in Kayak to Klemtu. Speech almost seems superfluous. The pro-environment message comes in loud, clear, and true, despite a story that is more or less a typical "road trip" drama in which characters undergo profound change within themselves and their relationships with each other while traveling from Point A to Point B. It's an earnest message, best revealed through the breathtaking land and seascape.

As the native Archie Bunker archetype, Lorne Cardinal steals just about every scene he's in as the cranky and exasperated Uncle Don. Don's character seems to be presented as a counterbalance to the movie's strong pro-environmental message. His lengthy tirade, during which he rants about environmentalists (they wear patchouli, drink fancy coffee, are from California, etc.), serves to reveal that the movie is as much about community and tradition as it is protecting waterways from oil tankers, and also -- intentionally or not -- highlights the movie's paradoxes. For instance, immediately after a scene in which the teen boy lead character is traumatized by seeing a skinned bear in the cab of a hunter's truck, the four lead characters stop and get burgers at a fast food joint. In a movie about the evils of oil tankers and their negative impact on the environment, the lead characters resort to taking a gas-powered boat to get to their destination on time. Perhaps this is quibbling, but a movie centered on outside forces threatening an ecosystem and the way of life of those who have lived in that ecosystem for thousands of years could have spent some time looking at how individual choices, no matter how small, play a role in the bigger picture.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "road trip" movies. How does Kayak to Klemtu compare to other movies in which characters undertake a journey from Point A to Point B? 

  • How does the movie convey its messages concerning the environment, community, family? 

  • How does the movie attempt to show how environmentalists are viewed by some in rural native communities in British Columbia? 

Movie details

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