out of Five
Running time: 97
Utterly delightful mumblecore mystery that plays like a slacker version of Sherlock Holmes and is by turns gripping, moving and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to a superb script, engaging characters and terrific performances. One of the best films of the year.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by mumblecore maestro Aaron Katz, Cold Weather is set in Portland, Oregon and stars Cris Lankenau as Doug, a college drop-out and detective fiction enthusiast who has returned to his home-town and moved in with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Pressured to get a job, Doug takes night-shift work at an ice factory where he soon bonds with co-worker Carlos (Raul Castillo) after he lends him a Sherlock Holmes novel (“Dude, you were right – Sherlock Holmes is the pimp!”)
When Doug's ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) shows up in town and then promptly disappears, Carlos becomes convinced that something bad has happened to her and eventually convinces a sceptical Doug (“Just how much Sherlock Holmes did you read, anyway?”) to put his half-finished forensic science degree to good use and turn amateur detective in order to find her. But first, he has to buy a pipe ...
Cris Lankenau (who was the lead in Katz's Quiet City) makes a likeably shambolic lead as Doug and generates engaging chemistry with each of his co-stars, particularly Dunn (who's superb as Gail) and Castillo, who's very funny as the hipster Watson to Doug's slacker Holmes.
Katz's script is excellent, skilfully taking much-loved detective story conventions (breaking into motel rooms, tailing suspects, staking out houses) and giving them a low-budget slacker twist that works perfectly, creating something that feels entirely original in the process (although, thematically at least, the film is very similar to HBO's Bored to Death). However, the film's key strength is the obvious warmth and affection Katz feels for his characters: the gradual rekindling of Doug and Gail's estranged brother and sister relationship forms the emotional heart of the film and is genuinely moving.
Katz keeps a deceptively tight control of the tone throughout, aided by Andrew Reed's superbly atmospheric photography, which makes strong use of Portland's rainy mean-streets. He also orchestrates several wonderful scenes and the film is by turns suspenseful, moving and laugh-out-loud funny.
Impressively directed and superbly written, Cold Weather is a delight from start to finish, thanks to likeable characters and terrific performances from all four leads. One of the best films of the year.