Good microbudget movies, by definition, have to rely on well-conceived characterization, script, and atmosphere – all of which are in notoriously short supply in the macrobudget realm. “Cold Weather,” written and directed by Aaron Katz, is almost a textbook example of how to do more with less. It’s about aimless people who suddenly find their aim.
Doug (Cris Lankenau) is a mopey slacker who dropped out of a graduate program in forensic science and has returned to Portland, Ore., to live with his big sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) whom he has not seen in years. When Doug’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) suddenly shows up and then, equally unexpectedly, goes missing, Doug’s Sherlock Holmes fetish gets a chance to flourish.
He and a fellow worker (Raúl Castillo) at the ice factory where he’s taken a dead-end job attempt, along with Gail, to track Rachel down, and their fumbly, tentative investigation is essentially an excuse for the filmmakers to feature some tricky, chummy byplay. Katz and his cinematographer Andrew Reed have a marvelous feel for the drizzly spaciousness of Portland, and the film has an unfussy, unforced pokiness that’s very pleasing. It’s only at the end that you realize, with a smile, that this slightly silly anomic detective story is really a fable about how Doug and Gail rediscover their friendship as siblings. Grade: B+ (Unrated.)
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