• 19 Sep - 25 Sep, 2020
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The risk with making a movie involving characters confined in a small space is that the audience can wind up feeling more claustrophobia than suspense. Such turns out to be the case with Brendan Walsh's directorial debut, about a couple trapped in a car during a blizzard. Neither tense nor thematically resonant enough to overcome its literally small-scale aspects, Centigrade proves as much an ordeal for its viewers as its characters.

Supposedly "inspired by real events," the film wastes no time establishing its premise. It begins with married couple Matthew (Vincent Piazza) and Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) waking up in their SUV, which has been buried under snow and ice. While traveling through wintry Norway as part of Naomi's book tour, they had pulled over to wait out a sudden blizzard, only to fall asleep and find themselves in a life-and-death situation when they woke up.

Naomi, who we eventually learn is eight months pregnant, thinks that they should take action, suggesting that they break a window and crawl through the snow to safety. Matthew takes the opposite approach, saying that trying to escape would be too risky and that they should simply wait for the help that he's sure is bound to arrive soon. It's but the first of many arguments the couple engage in during the course of their travails.

It would be a pleasure to report that things get more engrossing from there, but Centigrade never manages to satisfyingly expand on its initial idea. To the filmmaker's credit, he certainly succeeds in conveying the dread and despair of the perilous situation. But as time goes on, days turning into weeks, the characters' ordeal proves less than interesting cinematically despite some undeniably dramatic developments.

Technically, the film works well enough. Walsh, whose extensive television directorial credits include episodes of Nurse Jackie and Friends From College, delivers visual and aural vibrancy despite the inherent limitations. And Piazza and Rodriguez certainly give it their all under what must have been arduous conditions.

By the time Centigrade reaches its underwhelming conclusion, which seems to take forever to arrive, you've stopped caring about the characters' fates. It's a fatal flaw, considering that you've been trapped with them for nearly 90 minutes.