Previously known as Cold
UK release date TBC
Ah family… you can’t live with them, you can’t dump them in the local swamp. Troubled childhoods and absent parents are pretty well trodden ground for a drama, so Eoin Macken (The Night Shift) adds a few extra elements in this directorial effort. It’s a slow burning affair with plenty of bleak visuals and cold Irish landscapes in a tale of two brothers who reunite after their father passes away. They both seem to be pretty distant but with distinctly different personality flaws, some being bigger cracks than others. While it seems initially to be a story of bad blood between children who followed very different paths into adulthood, nothing is ever quite what it seems in this domestic thriller.
Tom (Tom Hopper) seems to have been living away from it all in the countryside until his father dies. He’s reclusive and lacks social skills. The return of his brother Jack (Macken) doesn’t help with the current mood at all, and Tom suspects his arrival is timed this way only to see if there is anything left to him as an inheritance. There are clearly a lot of past issues going unsaid here, and their opposing temperaments aren’t going to let them be ironed out easily. Jack is hard drinking, unkempt and rude; he upsets the local pub employees pretty quickly and it’s obvious Tom isn’t comfortable around him. Tom on the other hand is “still too soft” as his brother puts it. He seems to have some kind mental health issues from his manner and there’s a certain simmering rage under the surface that erupts when Tom tries to take a closer look their father’s will.
Things don’t get any more relaxed when the family solicitor reveals they won’t get anything from this because of unpaid debts. Jack plans to be gone within a day or two but it’s not going to be that simple, and after a drunken bender he stumbles home to have a vision of a women being beaten up on the local moors. Maybe it was his imagination, since the event was difficult to recall through all the booze and night time mist. This fork in the road is where things start to become more unusual, and the two siblings soon found her lying in the grass nearby. Is this a chance occurrence or is it linked to back them? Tom might have at first seem to be the mild mannered brother, but it’s clearly not the whole picture.
There are a lot of odd references to people drowning, whether it’s the recently deceased father or a local rumour about a girl who died years before. People in the village seem to think this involved Jack, but what really happened? The unconscious girl on the moor plot soon reveals that Tom has some serious problems which his brother is either ignoring or covering for. What seems to be the start of a romantic pairing is soon an obvious delusion of some sort, and things start to fall apart even further soon afterwards. The many shots of a nearby river and lake Tom travels by boat has more significance than it seems early on. There’s an air of decay around the whole place which has been this way for some time in Jack’s absence. The gloomy atmosphere is apparent from the opening scenes which focus on dead wildlife and produce an eerie tone.
The issues come along when this central storyline and the lost memory elements get sidelined for other extraneous threads which don’t quite work. Mainly because the idea of Jack either covering up for all the problems or trying to get something from his brother is left unresolved for the most part. In one scene he starts to get interested in a lady running a bar, bit it leads nowhere besides creating a dip in the pacing. Instead of following up on the flashbacks, the missing people and the brewing angst from the locals it just gets left hanging while the two leads go off to find their mother. I mean this kind of fits thematically and explains where Jack has been, but at the same time feels like a big diversion from where things were heading.
More focus would have allowed for stronger characterisation and a sense of actual reconciliation, if that was ever the idea, but swapping out the location at the last minute just for an extra third act reveal feels incongruous. It raises more questions than it answers, which for a mystery is a major flaw. The first half or so isn’t bad, despite the somewhat stiff performances and some of the melodrama feeling a bit too much like a soap opera at times. A solid psychophysical thriller could have been constructed here but the narrative isn’t planned out enough. It’s a missed opportunity that had plenty of interesting themes and chances to build character arcs but just isn’t steadfast enough to follow them through.