One of life's most satisfying relationships is a love that reaches across the generations and is beneficial and life-affirming for both parties. Such is the bond between a grandparent and a grandchild. This intimate tie is the focus of Before Tomorrow, the third feature in a loose trilogy about the Inuit people begun with Atanajuat: The Fast Runner and followed by The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu are the directors of this first feature from the Arnait Video Collective, which is attempting to bring to the screen the lives and wisdom of Inuit women.
Before Tomorrow is set in 1840 in the far north of Canada where Ningiuq, a female tribal elder takes on an important mission for the tribe and its survival. She is accompanied by her 10-year-old grandson Maniq. Madeline Piujuq Ivalu plays the lead role, giving a raw and emotionally affecting performance along with her real-life grandson, Paul-Dylan Ivalu.
Two Inuit families that live far apart come together in the summer for a festive gathering where they fish and frolic together in the warm sun. Kukik, an elder from the visiting clan, has a wild story about their first encounter with strangers who arrive in a large boat, have a habit of shaking hands, drink a liquid that burns the throat and makes them silly, and have various impressive tools such as sharp knives and sturdy needles. Ningiuq doesn't know what to make of this but she is already thinking about her task of drying the season's catch of fish on a remote island and storing it in a cave. This time her young grandson volunteers to go along with her and his father agrees after giving him his first harpoon. Ningiuq's best friend Kutuujuk knows that she is on her last legs and begs to come along. Not long after being taken to the deserted island by men, the infirm old lady dies after sharing a dream with Ningiuq.
Time flies as grandmother and grandson dry the fish and transport it to a cave. The boy marvels at the old woman's treasure-trove of stories, her joy in hearing about his first seal kill, and her down-to-earth wisdom. Above all, he basks in the light of her appreciation and unconditional love of him.
Before Tomorrow turns into a griping survival story after they discover the reason why no one has come to pick them up. Now they are on their own as winter closes in and they must work together more than ever. Based on the Danish novel by Jorn Riel, the movie vividly conveys the wisdom and skills of elders, the devastation wrought on indigenous peoples by contact with Westerners, the importance of community, and the heart connection between grandparents and their grandchildren.