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‘Too Cold To Swim’ (review)

Produced by Peter Bolte, Oliver Henzler,
Francesco Saviano, D.W. Young

Written and Directed by D.W. Young
Starring Oliver Henzler, Michael Rabe,
Sophie Simpson, Pierre Shrady

 

There is a lot going on in this film. Be prepared.

At first that can seem strange in a story that more or less only has four characters. In Too Cold to Swim we have four stories.

Oscar, who is riding his bike across the country. Oscar’s father in Germany. Gary and Adele, a brother and sister who wind up as unlikely friends to Oscar as his journey takes an unexpected hiccup.

This story is about loss, pain, healing and moving forward.

The problem is there is very little understanding of why the characters are in pain. Why are they suffering? Why are they trying to heal?

We know Oscar and his father are estranged, but we don’t know why and when they talk they make a point of avoiding the conflict. I guess you can make the argument that it is irrelevant, but I think it is.

Gary & Adele have gone through personal trauma, but why are they stuck?

It’s clear Oscar is running away and we know why, but we get no visibility into the extreme Forrest Gump-like path he chooses. The film is good enough for me to care about the characters, but doesn’t go deep enough for me to really get invested.

D.W. Young has 42 film editing credits in IMDB. So if we can assume anything, it’s that he knows his way around a cutting room. The challenge here is the film is only 76 minutes long (not counting credits).

There was time. 14-20 minutes to go deeper. Let’s say he spent 5 extra minutes on each one of the 4 primary characters developing their depth and intersection? 4 to 5 minutes per character is an ETERNITY on film. There was time to spend teaching us why each one of these people was worth caring about. He could have taught us about their pain, their desires and why they were on the paths they were on. Instead, he cut and cut deep, leaving me wanting more.

The performances are reasonably solid, if unspectacular.

Oliver Henzler plays Oscar like a journeyman. Oliver doesn’t seem to have a lot of emotional range and there are moments in this film that call for emotions that he didn’t or couldn’t give us. You could chalk it up to him playing a German, but I found the performance stiff versus stoic. Michael Rabe as Oscar’s unlikely friend delivers a solid and believable performance. Michael Rabe is very likable and I expect to see a lot more of him. Sophie Simpson has been on screen since she was a child commercial star. She is very natural in her delivery and her years of experience come through in her performance.

Lastly Pierre, Shrady shows up via Skype as Oscar’s estranged father. Shrady is very believable and sympathetic, but the script sells him short and it shows up in the interactions with Henzler.

This is a watchable film for a variety of reasons. If you like emotional conflict dramas, you will like this. If you like stories about adult children being estranged from their parents there is something here for you as well, but in the end it doesn’t give the viewer enough to really love the characters, even though they may all be worth the investment.

The thing I liked least about this film was the ending. I won’t spoil it for anyone really interested, but suffice it to say it uses some really cliche religious imagery that was so obvious and incongruous with the character it stood out, like a crucifix hood ornament on a 1971 Volkswagen Beetle. It looked cheap and didn’t belong there.

2 out of 5 stars

Too Cold To Swim is now available on Digital HD.

 

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