'Edge of Winter': Film Review

Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Gripping until it succumbs to familiar genre conventions.
8/12/2016

Joel Kinnaman plays an emotionally volatile single father trying to reconnect with his two sons in Rob Connolly's thriller.

Edge of Winter could have been a profoundly moving film about an emotionally volatile single father desperately trying to reconnect with his children.

Instead, Rob Connolly's debut feature goes down a far more predictable path, becoming a survivalist thriller — set, as the title implies, in a frigid wilderness — in which the father becomes increasingly, dangerously psychotic. The end result may be more marketable, but that doesn't make it any the less disappointing.

Continuing the not-so-coincidental trend of small indie movies being released just as one of its leading players is also in a Hollywood blockbuster, the film stars Joel Kinnaman, currently appearing in Suicide Squad. As icing on the cake, Edge of Winter also features Tom Holland, recently seen making his debut as Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War.

As the story begins, Elliott (Kinnaman), recently unemployed after a violent encounter with his boss, is reunited with his sons, 15-year-old Bradley (Holland) and 12-year-old Caleb (Percy Hynes White), when they come to stay with him for a few days. Things go awry fairly quickly when Elliott angrily discovers the boys playing with the loaded rifle that he keeps under his bed, leading him to decide to take them on an excursion into the woods so he can teach them a few things about being a man.

The lessons include drinking beer, learning how to shoot the rifle (and kill a cute bunny in the process) and, most disastrously, drive an SUV, which leads to an accident that leaves their vehicle stranded. Bradley argues that they should walk back to the highway and flag down a passing car, but his father insists that they head deeper into the woods, where they come upon an abandoned cabin.

The situation becomes even more tense with the arrival of two strangers (Rossif Sutherland, Shiloh Fernandez), one of them having the discomforting habit of speaking in French, who claim to need shelter. It isn't long before Elliot, who was already emotionally on the brink, starts to completely lose it.

Edge of Winter (the more prosaic original title was Backcountry) is most effective in its early section, when it depicts the strained interactions between the father and sons as he vainly tries to bond with them even as he feels them slipping away. Kinnaman delivers a superb turn, especially in such scenes as when the boys tell their helpless father that they'll soon be moving to London with their mother and her new husband. Holland and White also are excellent as the boys who still love their father even while becoming ever more aware of his failings. Their quietly terrified reactions to his escalating belligerence is far more emotionally wrenching than the tired thriller genre conventions to which the film ultimately succumbs.

Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Production companies: Independent Edge, JoBro Productions
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Tom Holland, Percy Hynes White, Rossif Sutherland, Shiloh Fernandez, Shaun Benson, Patrick Garrow
Director: Rob Connolly
Screenwriter: Kyle Mann, Rob Connolly
Producers
: Kyle Mann, Jonathan Bronfman
Executive producers: Jeff Sackman, Michael Risley, Aaron Barnett, Lon Molnar
Director of photography: Norm Li
Production designer: Craig Lathrop
Editor: Greg Ng
Costume designer: Joanna Syrokomla
Composers: Brooke Blair, Will Blair
Casting: Kerry Rock

Rated R, 89 minutes

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