Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cold Weather (2010)

Cold Weather (2010)

Genre: Drama
Director: Aaron Katz
Starring: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raul Castillo, Robyn Rikoon
Duration: 96 min.
Rating: 7.6

A college dropout returns to his hometown and moves in with his sister then becomes involved in the mystery of his ex-girlfriend's disappearance.

Cold Weather is a film from mumblecore director Aaron Katz that premiered at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.  Set in Portland, Oregon, it follows the relationship between two twenty-something siblings as they investigate a mysterious disappearance.

Actually that description and even the trailer is misleading because the actual mystery takes up only a fraction of the screen time, and like other mumblecore films the plot takes a back seat to the characters and their dynamics.  But it is so well acted and directed it manages to overcome its flaws and succeed as a charming and at times gripping film.

It starts out with Doug (Cris Lankenau) moving home to Portland from Chicago where he sleeps on the couch at his sister Gail's (Trieste Kelly Dunn).  Both performances are so natural and immediately believable, and their characters come across as normal people, not the stereotypical annoying hipsters I expected to see.  It feels like a real sibling relationship perhaps in some ways reminding me of my own, and its fascinating to watch their conversations, despite nothing really happening for a good chunk of the first half of the movie.

The film's setting, Portland, is a beautiful place and one rarely seen on film.  There are some wonderful shots of the city and nearby places including a majestic scene at Multnomah Falls and an afternoon excursion to Cannon Beach, a quiet ocean-side town on the Oregon coast a place I've often visited.  Shot with the famous Red One digital camera, the film on the most part looks very good, except for an early dinner table scene where the trademark close cropped and in your face style is employed, with a shallow depth of field and constantly changing focus, it appears more amateurish than stylistic.  Fortunately the cinematography improves exponentially as the rest of the film progresses, and the wet and cloudy Pacific Northwest really strengthens the mood on display.

Those seeing the trailer and expecting a mystery thriller will no doubt be disappointed, there is virtually no action, no sex, and no violence (though there is some Sherlock Holmes inspired pipe smoking).  However Katz still manages to direct one of the most gripping and exciting sequences I've seen all year.  The last 20 minutes are perfectly paced and executed, and features a great exercise of tension building that doesn't betray the low-key nature of the film.


Bonjour Tristesse said...

I was apprehensive at first too.  The trailer doesn't do a very good job of describing the film.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Yeah this one does require a bit of patience from the viewer.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I initially chose to watch it for its setting, and ended up liking it because it manages to pull off something unexpected.  Its not a must see, but if you come across it, its worth taking a look.

Adalmin said...

Gripping and exciting without any cheap gimmicks? I'm sold.

Shutterbug said...

I have such a short attention span, I'm not sure I would be able to sit through the whole movie. ;)

blahblahblahtoby said...

i'm unsure why i have previously dismissed checking this film out, especially now i read your review of it. it sounds pretty good the way you talk about it, so i'll add it to my list. thank you once more.

d_4 said...

Well, initially I didn't expect a mystery thriller, in fact at the beginning it seemed like a generic 'this is life' movie. It shows a bit of the mystery side, and I love movies based on mystery and things, no action no sex no whatever, I'm fine with. But I'm not sure how I feel about it after the review. It sounds good, but I'm not sure I'll give it that extra mmpf? I'll find out soon enough.

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