You Might Actually Like Centigrade?

I’m an outspoken defender of Indie films. My street cred in this regard is unimpeachable. Heck, I adore single set, constrained films, that require deft and adroitness out of the screenplay author. So much so that I’ve given them a category, a new name – Closed Box Movies. And better yet, I have been categorizing and detailing all the closed box movies I have recommended for over ten years now. Here, check them out right here. But Centigrade is not one of those films that I’m able to get behind. I just can’t do it. And I was so super excited about the possibilities too.

The movie starts with a couple waking in the morning, trapped inside their snowed over car. It would seem that the previous night, they made a nightmarish decision to pull over and await the cessation of the freezing rain. One they’ll quickly regret as they learn that they are completely locked in their car by the ice and snow that have covered the car. If you are intrigued by the idea, join in, and watch here, here, or here.

OK, I’ve started this review off on the wrong foot. If you come into this movie, assuming it is a biographical/survivalist story…it may just be really enjoyable. And in that light, I’m realizing I’m not being very fair to the film makers, the talented acting (carried 100% on the backs of the talented Genesis Rodriguez, and Vincent Piazza), the great score, and this really good survivalist idea. IFFfffff, you walk into this movie assuming that it’s a human story about survival…then you may really enjoy it.

I was just expecting a certain sort of film. When a Director goes in on making a closed box film, USUALLY, they use it as a devices to excavate past stories hidden within the facades of the few characters in the movie. And usually, all of that comes to a head in the film’s tight, and enclosed space, which its claustrophobic quarters just heightens and exacerbates the expanding drama exuding from the people trapped in these circumstances. For example, your honor, I give you the Ethan Hawke drama, Tape. Two (maybe three) old high school friends are joined in a hotel room by their terrible past, and as they dig up allegations and various perspectives on their history, they all realize everything isn’t exactly what it seemed. That they were not as innocent as they seemed. Or, Tom Hardy’s movie Locke. He spends 100 minutes driving and talking and driving and talking. And the entirety of the film is a nail-biter from beginning to end as we learn he’s having an affair, and the woman he’s having an affair with is about to give birth. Or the movie I reviewed the other day, Hippopotamus? A woman is abducted and forced to fall in love with her abductor. Maybe it really is love? Maybe it really is hate? It’s two characters trying to figure the other out. Or 10×10?!? A movie where the abductor may be the abductee? Movies like these are usually mental games of cat and mouse. Head games layered with head games, mixed with drama, and chaos. THAT is what I was assuming was coming our way with Centigrade.

Centigrade – Let’s Start Over

A few weeks ago, I heard there as a human survivalist story about two people trapped in a car and I just could wait to get my hands on it. Normally I like cat and mouse closed box movies… but this time?! No! I was really amped about watching this National Geographical type tale about the elements and the possible dangers of traveling in the midst of winter storms. This semi-biographical story is a composite of 10 different real life experiences that found individuals trapped, and lost, in desperate situations. Brendan Walsh and Daley Nixon found these stories and utilized their experiences to draft a very realistic disaster story the hews closely to their realities. They even filmed within the frozen conditions of an ice-cream freezer. The film was shot in chronological order solely to give that mounting dread important to imbuing the situation with the dread and desperation it deserved. They even filmed in two and three day stretches, dieting and constricting water in hopes of increasing their sense of reality, and hopelessness. I’m so glad I was going in hoping for a film based on a terrible survival story, because if I wasn’t, I’m sure I could have mistaken this film for any one of a hundred other closed box films, and that could have really derailed how I would have experienced this riveting film.

The film does explore the backstory of these two characters. And you know it’s going to get a bit ugly when Naomi says out loud to Matt, while in the middle of another irrelevant argument, that, “People have secrets.” Which actually cued some really interesting personal excavation was ahead. And as the movie wound its way through its enormous highs and low, through to the inevitable conclusion of their salvation (maybe?) we really become invested in the futures of this growing family.

Wait, WHAT?@?!#?!#$

Alright, from here on out, this is going to get really spoilery. I’ve tried to remain really abstract, but I really can’t anymore. So, if you haven’t seen the film yet, you need to stop reading, go get a copy of the film, watch it, and then come back. OK? Great. Thanks for doing that for me.

Naomi and Matt make the fateful decision to stay in the car, right? And it’s a really decision decision too. I have pretty close family members who were flying a small plane in the Northwest, in winter, and crashed. They ultimately chose not to stay in the plane after surviving the crash, and they both ultimately lost both their legs as a result of hiking out. The truly sad thing was, search and rescue made it to their plane, but no one was there. Um, yeah, and they were criticized loudly in the media and in our family for their decisions to leave. It doesn’t sound heroic to stay with the car, but it must be said, generally, that is the right move to make. (Let the hate mail commence… whatever. But I won’t be moved on this particular point.) So Naomi is angry about staying with the car, but she ultimately goes along with it. And Matt, makes the only decision possible for his pregnant wife (oh, have I not mentioned she’s pregnant?) which is to let her have the food and water. Naomi actually even gives birth, they name the child… and eventually Matt dies. Yeah. Harsh. I might have shed a tear. Or two. Or not.

But hold on. Remember, this story is a composite of a number of real stories that all came together to craft this screenplay into a real life-like experience. But it isn’t real. Right? Naomi isn’t a historical person, who is an author, with a book you can buy or anything. And Matt? His heroism, while encouraging – isn’t specifically real. Which brings me to this ending summary that just sort of blows my mind:

NO, SHE DOESN’T! Naomi has no real name in the credits because she doesn’t exist. And you can’t flip open Amazon and buy all her touchingly dedicated books to her husband Matt. Why? Because they don’t exist. Worse, if they had created a “Loosely Based on Matt and Naomi SMITH” intro message, I’d be very interested to hear more about how Naomi and Liv are doing… and her book sales. Or something. But now I just feel like I’ve been messed with emotionally.

Now I’m back to where I started this review. And why I expected something different. The post has really been a super long journey really. I went from expecting a film like 10×10, to deciding I was ready for a survival story, to realizing this film isn’t based on a couple, but rather 10 different couples, all with nuances being pulled in order to heighten the drama and the cinematic experience. To a “touching” tribute screen at the end that made me want to wretch solely because I knew these weren’t real characters. Phew. The journey was a blisteringly long one, and I’m not exactly sure where I stand on the film. So, with that said, I don’t plan on rating it. I thought I would eviscerate the thing at first. But now, I’ll just leave it up to you guys to decide what you thought of it.

Edited by: CY