Cold Weather - DVD Review

'mumblecore for mystery fans. Mumblesterycore.'

If you search for 'mumblecore' on Wikipedia you'll notice two things. Firstly, Cold Weather is listed as one of the few films which comprise the genre. Secondly, you'll probably read that the genre is 'primarily characterised by ultra-low budget production, [a] focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors'. Which, to be quite honest, makes it sound awful.

But that only tells half of the story with Cold Weather. Aaron Katz' film is mumblecore with grander intentions than just showing a faintly annoying group of hipsters having quiet conversations about pixies and other twee topics. Cold Weather is mumblecore for mystery fans. Mumblesterycore.

Not that it doesn't start out by following the genre conventions. Doug (Cris Lankenau) and Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn) sit down to a dinner with their parents. They cover some embarrassing topics. Gail starts to say something and stops. Doug mumbles about finding a job. It's very typically low-fi indie stuff and it continues in this way for the best part of the first act, Doug and Gail loping from one situation to another, right up until the point where they play the obligatory 'off-the-wall' game to show just how indie they are (in this case it's throwing grapes from a roof to see if they can make them splatter).

After this though, the film starts to wake up. A mystery is discovered by Carlos (Raúl Castillo, who puts in a noticeably weaker performance than the rest of the cast) and Arthur Conan Doyle-reader Doug sets out to investigate. At this juncture Cold Weather turns into something more akin to Brick, minus the stylised dialogue and noir inflections. It's exactly what would happen if mumblecore directors stopped being satisfied with planting their casts on couches for the entirety of their films and got them out and about in to something resembling the real world.

Katz' cast of real-world wanderers are largely terrific, particularly Lankenau and Dunn who create one of the most realistic brother/sister dynamics I've ever seen. Nailing that particular relationship can be difficult but the two leads here really perfect it; they're awkward but loving, mischievous but comfortable, open and secretive. Watching Katz grow the pair as a family couple is a joy.

All of the inherent tension in the mystery culminates in the final act, which is engaging but also features more than a couple of noticeable flaws. Firstly, two characters completely disappear, which is acceptable but hardly makes developing them so much in the first hour worthwhile. The other noticeable problem is the end, which, in true mumblecore fashion, just happens. It doesn't feel out of place, just unsatisfactory, as does the alternative version on the Blu-ray extras which merely provides an alternative slice of nothing.

An enigma and almost entirely unique although this can summarise both Cold Weather's successes and its vexing failures.

Look further...

'Not since Sofia Coppola have I fallen so head-over-heels for a new filmmaker... It might be an indie and it might have handheld shots and a little bit of shaky cam but, really, [Katz is] a classical filmmaker' - Cinema Romantico


  1. Very true those characters disappear in the final act which I suppose I kind of glossed over in waxing poetically in my own review. But I enjoyed the end of this one so much because that final shot reveals the movie wasn't necessarily about the mystery but about a brother/sister re-connecting. And that once you realized this was the film's true intention it had to end. Either way, nice review as always and I'm glad you watched it.

    Also, the DVD is out there! It's not out here until August!

  2. Firstly, wouldn't have watched this without your article and certainly glad that I did so, so thanks once again for your coverage of it.

    Literally an hour or so ago I found a similar claim to the brother/sister reconnection on IMDb's message board. I can see the argument but I think that placing that narrative within the trope of a mystery is problematic and I certainly didn't finish the film thinking that that was what I had watched. Then again, I did comment on how real their relationship seemed so perhaps subconsciously, that theme seeped in. Can an underlying theme be considered the subject of a film? I'm not sure, but either way I certainly wanted a bit more closure to the mystery element. Having said that, I can certainly appreciate why you loved it.

    I doubt this got a cinema run here, which is probably why we got the DVD first.