Friday, November 7, 2014

Film Review: Cold in July

Copyright: IFC Films
Like a kid sitting in a lap of an adult wearing an old fashioned bunny costume, there is something wrong with this film, but it is very hard to pinpoint what that thing is exactly. 

Like the mentioned image, it is also fascinating to watch. Sure, it doesn’t have a lot of direction when it comes to character development and it also isn’t timid about introducing completely new plot twists in random sections. But, in spite of all this, Cold in July somehow works.

Its story is about a man who kills an intruder and become entangled in a lot additional things which threaten his family and also beckon him to go on very dangerous weekend vacations. But, apart from presenting its development, I couldn’t quite say what this movie tries to be about. 

Ideas like fatherhood, family and generational debts creep around it, but not one of them can take up the prime spot. This Cold in July review will, just like my viewing of the film, lack a clear message, but I feel that this might not be such a bad thing, especially for the film (less so for my review).

Jim Mackle, the director, took a similar approach to the one he demonstrated with We Are What We Are. Again, we see murderous, dysfunctional families, but this time, the focus is on one family that isn’t exactly that (for the time being, at least). The story of the film is based on a novel by the same name, which partly explains the narrative mumbo jumbo that the movie serves up in the end, but I’m guessing that Mackle didn’t aim for a clear conclusion.

In the emotional department, Cold in July works much better as a kaleidoscope of states, mostly those that belong to its main character Richard Dane (in the interpretation of solid Michael C. Hall). The thing that connects them, which is the plot, is there because Mackle couldn’t make a film without it. But at best, he treats the story with contempt, and even possibly some humor.

To me, the thing that represents the film almost perfectly is its soundtrack, which is also one of the most puzzling parts of this film. At some parts, the music sounds like it belongs in a very slick 80’s parody or games like Hotline Miami. In others, the sounds are deadly serious, just like the themes of the film (but still in the 1989, when the movie takes place). But, similar to the themes and the music, there isn’t a clear pattern to this movie. On the other side, it is also a fact that the same soundtrack resonates strongly in every moment of the film.

It would be very smart to call Cold in July a very dumb and yet a very impressive film, but it entirely summarizes my thoughts about it.