Movie Review: “Cold Weather”

Image“Cold Weather” is a conventionally unconventional indie dramedy, one of those well-shot, thoughtfully-played movies that exists in the dead space that a Hollywood movie mystery would skip right past.

This new example of the European fad “Slow Cinema,” by Portland filmmaker Aaron Katz (“Dance Party, USA”) makes us work for everything –figuring out the relationships between the characters, even picking up the characters’ names — things more mainstream (and more polished) screenwriters see as needless obstacles to story. And modest virtues aside, “Cold Weather” is not really worth our getting past those obstacles.

Doug (Cris Lankena) is an aimless recent college grad who shares a flat with his sister, Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Doug’s a guy who has learned to treasure his sibling’s common sense. She, in turn, accepts him without judgment, enjoying their common traits and common ground and ability to live together “without killing each other.”

Neither has a career, yet. She has a dreary desk job. He signs on to load bagged ice at the local ice factory, even though he has a degree in criminal forensics.

“You mean like C.S.I.?” his co-worker Carlos ( Raúl Castillo) wonders.

More like Sherlock Holmes, Doug counters.

This circle of slackers is invaded when Doug’s seemingly more focused and ambitious ex-girlfriend (Robyn Rikoon) visits from out of town. Carlos tries to impress her with his DJ skills. Doug tries to explain how he’s almost as happy living with his sister as he was with Rachel, when they were an item.

And then Rachel disappears. Carlos acts unnaturally hysterical. A mysterious pick-up truck is watching her empty motel room. And Doug, for the first time, must make use of his powers of perception and what he learned in school.

Katz’s forensics homework for this project seems limited to maybe watching Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” Doug does a few things anybody who’s ever seen a movie mystery would know to try — hitting redial on the motel phone, pencil rubbing a notepad to see what the previous note read, checking the trash cans.

Still, the pulse of the picture picks up, if only briefly, as Doug and Carlos try to figure out what happened, and the viewer worries over the missing Rachel.

But “Cold Weather” is more about the relationships and how they’re tested by this event, and the how these aimless young people find a sense of purpose and direction in this puzzle.

“You know what we need?” Carlos blurts out.

“What?”

“Common sense. We’re calling your sister!”

The laughs — Doug tries to take up the pipe, a la Sherlock Holmes — are on the flat side. And the novelty in the way the movie treats surveillance, chases and the like is that we’re seeing truly unschooled people try their hand at this.

But that novelty and the unusual setting wear off like that first gray day of your Portland vacation. And like the gray skies, “Cold Weather” settles in for a dreary haul that just makes us hope and wish something –anything — would change.

Cast: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raúl Castillo, Robyn Rikoon

Director: Aaron Katz

Running time:  1 hour 36 minutes

Rating: unrated, with profanity adult situations, smoking.

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