I don't imagine this movie will set the world on fire, but it had a lot of heart. Ten years ago David (son of Ruth and Ronald, father of Jake and Duncan) died. Duncan (played by Joshua Jackson (better known as Pacey in Dawson's Creek)) has never really recovered. Everyone thought he had such promise ("best damn hockey player I ever saw") but he has spent the last ten years losing jobs, hanging out with his mates, and making a bit of money by letting his (married) brother use his pad to bring girls to. But now his grandad (Donald Sutherland) is in need - he has Parkinsons and the early signs of "A-Bomb" (Alzheimer's) are showing up. This seems to be the very catalyst Dunc needed: he gets a job in the apartment building his grandparents live in, so he can be there when needed, and he gets set up by his grand-dad with his home-carer, Kate (Juliette Lewis (the girlfriend in What's Eating Gilbert Grape)). She plays a similar free character here - she can't handle the fact that he has not only never left Minneapolis (even jokes about not knowing where St Paul is) but doesn't want to leave. It is where is mates are and, of course, his dying grandfather - I could certainly see why he wouldn't leave, particularly as he has this new, adult, relationship unfolding with granddad. It gets very adult, very quickly, when Duncan realises that all his grandfather wants to do is to die, and is quite happy to have his head blown off by a shot gun if that's what it takes because Ronald is all too aware of the loss of his faculties. The aurora borealis of the title symbolise this: as he sits out looking over the Minneapolis skyline, he sees the northern lights - something he did see way back when he did live up north. As the movie moves towards its conclusion, these lights become more real for him. I think the pitch was dead on here - never too sentimental but avoiding the problem in, say, Kenny, where the dad was unbearably gruff. The acting was superb from both of them. I have to mention the sweetest moment in the movie: Ronald and Ruth are sitting on their sofa, she's saying he should find some stuff to do, like dancing, as he used to do all the time. He confesses that he never really liked to dance, what he liked was to be close to Ruth, holding her hand, feeling her near him.
As for Kate, Duncan has a problem with her refusal to stay in one place, thinks she's just running away (although she did want him to leave with her, and is genuinely upset at leaving him). There was a wee joke at Minneapolis's expense: all she can think of to do in Minneapolis is to chase down Paul Westerberg (former lead singer of The Replacements) for his autograph. Her time there will be complete when she does so. He does actually show up near the end of the movie, and she seems not to notice him. As for the end, it didn't come as a complete surprise, although the director did manage nicely to dodge a bullet (sorry).