The ending may not sit well for most people, I am split on it, but it achieves the outcome it feels is important. Whether you do or not is beside the point.
Cold Weather is a low-budget indie film by Aaron Katz that firmly believes less is more, focusing often on subtle interactions between characters. The film’s dialog is natural enough to be considered mumblecore, meaning seemingly improvised. Cold Weather goes to great lengths to show just how ordinary the twentysomething character’s daily lives are before they are blindsided by the mystery that unfolds.
Doug (Cris Lankenau) dropped out of a forensic science program in college but still hopes to one day become a detective. After interning in a kitchen for two months without pay he settles on a job in an ice making factory. He has recently moved from Chicago into a small apartment with his sister, Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn), in Portland.
Oddly enough Doug’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) is in town for a potential job opening so the two hang out together again. It must have not been too bad of a break up because the two seem more like close friends than ex-lovers. She tells him she wants to check out his place and he casually invites her over for board games.
Joining them for a night of board games is Doug’s new friend from the ice making factory, Carlos (Raul Castillo). The group hit it off rather well and hangs out together on a couple different occasions. Carlos brings up the fact he is looking for someone to attend a Star Trek convention with him but Doug has no interest. However, come to find out that Rachel is a Star Trek fan so Carlos asks Doug if it is okay to invite her to go with. Since their relationship is strictly friends at this point he responds, “I’m totally fine with it. And you guys are dorks.”
Carlos and Rachel attend the convention and supposedly had a great time there. Carlos becomes very paranoid when she does not end up showing up for their second “date”. He is so worried he frantically calls Doug five times while he is sleeping and eventually stops over. Doug thinks Carlos has been taking the Sherlock Holmes books he had recently lent him far too seriously.
This dream of being a detective finally comes true when Carlos presents enough evidence to get Doug to side with him. The two get to act out their fantasy playing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they try to find clues to Rachel’s disappearance. Although, Carlos is not as willing to skip work as Doug is, so he eventually brings Gail in to be his side-kick.
Cris Lankenau plays the part of Doug perfectly as if the role was written for him. Which could very well be the case considering Katz was one of the writers of Cold Weather and Lankenau worked with Katz before in his last film Quiet City. It would be hard not to like his character and it does not take long to believe in him because of how realistic and how down-to-earth he portrays the character. The best part of it all is that you forget that he is acting.
There are at least two different parts of the film that are seat grabbing worthy. The fact Katz was able to evoke such feelings from such a low-key tempo, which it greatly benefits from, is one of the best qualities of the film. The thing I liked least about the film though was how Carlos and Rachel’s involvement to seemed to fade out even though they were initially very important to the story.
Cold Weather does not have the kind of pace that your typical detective thriller has. In fact, although the focal point of film is the thriller, it is more about the brother-sister relationship Doug and Gail have. He finds out more about her personal life while sitting in a car on a stake out than he probably ever would have otherwise. The ending may not sit well for most people, I am split on it, but it achieves the outcome it feels is important. Whether you do or not is beside the point.