Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Brendan Walsh
Writer: Daley Knox, Brendan Walsh
Producer: Bradley J. Ross, Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Vincent Morano, Brendan Walsh, Jane Oster, Keri Nakamoto
Stars: Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent Piazza
A pregnant author becomes trapped with her husband in a snowbound car after a blizzard strands them on a remote Norwegian road.
Ever since ¡°Buried¡± with Ryan Reynolds, I¡¯ve been fascinated by confined location thrillers both as an exercise in claustrophobic tension and as an economic indie filmmaking strategy. Falling in that category, ¡°Centigrade¡± sees some success as the latter, but nearly none at all as the former.
¡°The Pool¡± (review here) also qualifies for the same subgenre. That film¡¯s premise, where a man becomes trapped in an empty swimming pool with his pregnant fianc¨¦e and a hungry crocodile, probably seems silly to some. But ¡°The Pool¡¯s¡± far-fetched fantasy easily eclipses ¡°Centigrade¡¯s¡± reality-oriented drama in terms of entertainment. Because instead of nail-biting scenes of suspense that include desperately avoiding drowning in a flood, fighting for precariously dangling items, and fending off deadly animal attacks, ¡°Centigrade¡± strolls slowly through sleepy scenes of survival like rationing food, taking malnutrition naps, and peeing into a towel. What¡¯s captivating about that?
Having traveled to Norway for a book tour, pregnant novelist Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) and her husband Matt (Vincent Piazza) took a break from a long drive by stopping along a remote road. I have no idea what kind of promotional tour would put people 50 miles from their hotel, or in the middle of nowhere in general. Regardless, when they wake up, Naomi and Matt discover they¡¯re buried under a blizzard in a car that is frozen shut.
¡°Centigrade¡± goes to some length to give the impression of being a true story. Title cards introduce background info and establish the year as 2002. Epilogue text tells us what happened after the ending. If you really want to dive deep into the illusion, IFC Midnight¡¯s PR produced a faux four-minute documentary studded with stars like Kelsey Grammer and Isabella Rossellini as a survival expert and Naomi¡¯s mother respectively.
Except ¡°Centigrade¡± isn¡¯t a true story. Director Brendan Walsh and co-writer Daley Knox took cues from vague ¡°actual events¡± regarding various cases of people caught in similarly icy scenarios. But Naomi and Matt aren¡¯t real people, making it all the more baffling that the movie¡¯s creators would stick to building a boring script when they weren¡¯t beholden to specifically dull details.
Naomi and Matt turn every single thing that happens, which isn¡¯t much, into an opportunity to argue. When Matt knocks over a bottle, spilling some of their precious water supply, he blames Naomi for not putting the cap back on. Naomi proposes writing letters in case they are found dead, inspiring Matt to become irrationally irate at the suggestion, weirdly telling his wife she doesn¡¯t get to make that decision for both of them. From the opening moments of Matt telling Naomi not to worry or snatching the cellphone from her hand, the couple comes across as chillier than the weather outside their windows. And much of that chippiness seems to stem from longstanding resentment, not the stress of their situation.
As long days of sitting inside the car turn into longer weeks of still doing nothing, faint drama sparks when Matt discovers Naomi is taking an unidentified prescription medication she didn¡¯t tell him about. Matt hides his own secret, ultimately admitting he recently lost his job. Intrigued yet? Neither of these are earth-shattering revelations by any stretch of the imagination, much less issues worth working out amidst an immediate matter of life and death. Nothing else exists for an audience to emotionally anchor to, never mind nonexistent action to get enthusiastic over, unless you impossibly come to care about the couple refraining from fighting for five seconds to possibly show some slight sign of affection.
It¡¯s one thing to be stuck inside a solitary setting for an hour and a half. It¡¯s another thing to have to spend that 90 minutes with a hopelessly bland couple whose entire relationship appears founded on interminable contempt toward one another.
A straining cello on the score amplifies draining tedium with melancholy music that would better fit a serious documentary about cultural genocide. Then comes a constantly crying baby after Naomi gives birth. Of course she and Matt are undergoing a harrowing ideal. But how much of that do we too have to endure without some reward for paining our ears with headache-inducing screeches and putting lead in our eyelids from watching a milquetoast man and woman do nothing?
Review Score: 40