Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Coldwater

How do you raise a child who is behaving badly? A teenage boy who is violent at home and rebellious in the streets? Hundreds of films have been dedicated to answering this question. Some movie parents enforce strict rules to set their kid straight. Others mask their fear by giving in, being cool, letting shit slide. Many attempt to introduce a positive new variable, such as a competitive sport or a noble trade.

The parents represented in the fantastic and chilling new indie film, Coldwater, are different. Having suffered their son’s misdeeds, they call a private organization and arrange for their son to be sent to a juvenile camp called Coldwater. “Sent” isn’t exactly the proper word, as we see early in the film, a young man named Brad (newcomer P.J. Boudousqué) is abducted from his home, thrown into the back of a large van, and taken to the isolated Coldwater compound. Once there, Brad and a handful of other inmates (that’s the proper word, believe me) are introduced to Frank Reichert (James C. Burns), a retired Marine Corps Colonel who oversees the grounds.

Reichert is stern, imposing, and unafraid to enforce harsh penalties. His requirement of the boys is simple: show progress by proving a sense of responsibility and discipline, and you’ll be sent home a reformed young man. Keep with your unruly, don’t-give-a-fuck attitudes, and you’ll suffer the consequences. Reichert is backed by a few juiced-up workers who can barely contain their eagerness to begin breaking the new inmates down. These men, it turns out, are all former inmates of Coldwater. The prisoners, in effect, are now the guards.
But then something interesting happens. After Reichert’s introductory spiel, I expected the guards to break bad right away. But they didn’t. Sure, there are loud screams and long runs in the heat, but nothing inherently dangerous occurs. Coldwater is very careful in its reveals – showing us just enough to establish and maintain a consistent unease. The film also, wisely, doesn’t paint Reichert as a villain, or Brad as a martyr. These are two deeply flawed men whose problems are revealed patiently. Reichert is shown being capable of expressing sympathy, while the film’s extensive flashbacks remind us why Brad’s parents sent him to Coldwater in the first place.

Slowly and fiercely, the film does begin to change. Those in charge adopt more hostile attitudes, while the boys do everything to survive. I’m cautious to reveal more, because so much of this film surprised me in the best possible way. For example, Coldwater isn’t a movie hell bent on brutality. The film contains violence, certainly, but it isn’t crude torture porn. In fact, the most shocking thing in the entire picture was a midway title card revealing how long Brad had been at the facility. Truly, the film is far more emotionally brutal than it is physically cruel.

As Brad, P.J. Boudousqué is a stirring revelation. Coldwater was his first acting role, and he carries the movie with sheer confidence. Comparisons to Ryan Gosling are likely, given Boudousqué’s uncanny resemblance to a young Gosling. But Boudousqué also embodies the fiery intensity Gosling has become known for. Since making Coldwater (the film was shot in 2012 and hit the festival circuit last year), Boudousqué has booked a few single episodes on various television shows. That’s all well and good, but this guy deserves more. Many young actors fight to find that one perfect role that displays the best of their abilities, while, hopefully, making them a household name. Coldwater was Boudousqué’s first at bat, and the kid crushed it. It’s up to us to take notice.
Coldwater was co-written and directed by Vincent Grashaw, who spent 10 years researching the type of camps that Coldwater is based on. (Sadly, yes, they do indeed exist.) Coldwater is Grashaw’s first feature film, yet it is the work of a seasoned professional. He has a keen eye for stark composition, and a distinct insight into narrative fluctuation. He knows just how much to reveal in a flashback, and when to tell his present story straight, or when to effectively mix up a sequence of events. In every aspect of the filmmaking process – from casting to editing – Grashaw has proven he’s aware of what to say and how to best say it.

If you’ve ever attended a film festival, you’ve likely seen a movie like Coldwater. A movie that makes the rounds, acquires a steady buzz along the way, then inexplicably vanishes. Festival praise and positive word of mouth simply weren’t enough for Coldwater, and now the film is struggling to find an audience via On Demand outlets.
                                                                                                       
Searching for a new film On Demand can be daunting. It’s often much easier to choose a film starring people we’re familiar with. But quality films made by people we’ve never heard of do indeed exist. The difficult part is weeding them out. This review has been my best attempt at that. Not only does Coldwater deserve to be seen, but it merits discussion as well. Sadly, that’s not the case for many films made today. But here’s one just waiting to be discovered. A-


Coldwater is currently available to rent on iTunes

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26 comments:

  1. This sounds very interesting. I remember seeing the poster for this one while looking for new movies but the description of it didn't really do much for me. This review does pique my interest though and does make me want to look into this one.

    On a sidenote, I recently watched Starred Up, and that one was really well done (imo). Wondering if you've watched that one yet? I only bring it up because that one was also about a young guy in a prison trying to survive. I think you'd dig it if you haven't watched it yet.

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    1. Honestly man, I didn't think Coldwater would work for me nearly as much as it did. But I really connected with it. Can't wait to see it again.

      I've heard nothing but great things about Starred Up, but I don't know when it's going to be released. Is it on VOD or iTunes yet? Heard Jack O'Connell is fantastic in it.

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  2. Excellent review! This sounds like something I'd really enjoy, I wish I had VOD. I saved it to my Netflix queue for whenever it decides to show up. ha

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    1. Thanks Brittani! I don't have VOD either, but I was able to catch this one on iTunes. I definitely think it'll come to Netflix pretty soon. A lot of obscure indies seem to venture there, which is great.

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  3. Fantastic review! This sounds really interesting, and your review piques my interest. Sadly, I do not have On Demand or Netflix, so I might not be able to watch it soon :/ I will keep my eye out for it though!

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    1. Thanks Aditya! I don't know how iTunes works where you are, but that's how I watched it if you're interested! I quite enjoyed this one.

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  4. This sounds really interesting - adding it to my watchlist, for sure!

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    1. I'd love to know what you think when you get around to seeing it. It's a very smart little movie.

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  5. Fantastic review! This does sound like an amazing film. Unfortunately we don't really get non-mainstream movies in theaters in this area. I hope it comes to Netflix or Amazon in the near future.

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    1. I was actually going to send you an email and personally recommend this one to you. You have such great insight into kids (troubled or otherwise), and I'd love to know what you think about Coldwater. I hope it comes up on Netflix or Amazon soon as well!

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    2. Coldwater is available on Amazon. Check it out.

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  6. OK, I'm going to seek this out and wait when it comes on TV or on demand.

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    1. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one. I think you'd dig its look and style a lot.

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  7. Excellent review. I've never heard of this film, Alex, but now it's definitely on my radar.

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    1. Thanks buddy! It's a great little indie flick. Highly recommended!

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  8. I'd never heard of this, but it reminds me that I still need to check out another indie flick: Blue Ruin.

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    1. Both are very good and very well made indies. Though Blue Ruin is the better film. I think you'll really dig it.

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  9. Ooo, thanks for the introduction to this film, Alex. I think it's crazy that camps like that actually exist. I think what I find saddest about Coldwater is that the director spent 10 years researching the film, only to find it now offered on OnDemand. It's nice that you're marketing it on your site. I might check it out in my free time, so thanks for that! And I would completely agree - Boudousqué looks like a young Ryan Gosling if I ever saw one!

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    1. SO glad you're interested in seeing the film! I don't think the director solely researched the film for 10 years. Like, I think he had other jobs and stuff the whole time, but yes, it is very sad that great little movies like this get next to no publicity/distribution, when mainstream cinemas are littered with new filth every Friday. A bummer, indeed.

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  10. I just got back from some college visits and immediately jumped onto your blog as soon as I could, and man I know what's next on my to watch list. The way you write your reviews they become so luring. Due to your reviews I have really broadened my movie viewing experience to some different corners of films. This one will come soon, I have to get out and get an iTunes card I think. Anyway, your reviews often convince me to watch the movie that you are discussing. I don't think I would have seen Shame if it were not for your blog (Let me thank you real quick, I LOVED Shame, so thanks for introducing me to that film, also I would give it an A+ instead of an A and I was suprised you didn't). Anyway great review, can't wait to see it, and thanks for writing the reviews to these films that get almost no distribution.

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    1. Wow man, thanks so much for this comment! Made my day. I'm thrilled that some of my reviews motivate you to check out certain films. So great to hear. Back in 2011, I was very hesitant to give any film an A+, because mainstream criticism often deems a perfect score as unprofessional. Today... I think if a movie deserves an A+, it gets an A+. Very few modern films do (though I stand by my A+ grades for Enemy and Boyhood). Anyway, so happy you like Shame. That one still floors me.

      Can't wait to hear what you think of Coldwater. It's really a damn fine film.

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  11. For days now I 've had this feeling that I wanted to watch a movie but I had no idea what to watch.. this seems like something I want to watch, exactly the kind of theme, style. Man, just the first and the last image alone catch my intrest!

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    1. It WAS good. Thanks! And yes, sometimes it was hard to believe it was not Gosling.

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    2. Awesome! Seriously, I love that my review could inspire you to watch the film. That genuinely makes writing on this blog worth it. And I'm very pleased that you liked the film. That dude is a dead ringer for Gosling. Like... it's creepy.

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  12. I may be biased because I saw this after seeing the startling and stark 'Starred Up' but I felt 'Coldwater' suffered greatly from the mistakes usually made by a first-time director. It's just I can tell when there is a difference between pathos just for the sake of pathos and that which helps the story unfold better. Everyone has a 'tragedy' threshold for works of art and media, but this crossed it in my own estimation. For example, with Brad's backstory just how many things can they pile on for us to empathize with him? Or with the Colonel's backstory as well. We get it these are tormented souls, we could see that in the performances (for the record I thought the kid who played Gabriel stole the show from the leads). I sense here a filmmaker that wasn't confident enough in the characters he created to drive the story home and felt he needed to add 'more' for good measure. Again I'm not entirely sure, Grashaw certainly has made a well-meaning discussion piece on these facilities, and if nothing else I guess that is a job well done. And again it may just be that I think 'Starred Up' is a more confident rendering of Juvenile 'Rehabilitation'.

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    1. I liked Coldwater a little more than you, but I totally see where you're coming from. Starred Up is the superior film of the two, no question, but I really connected with Coldwater. Interestingly, Coldwater was written and first assembled in chronological order. They decided in editing to fuse in the backstory throughout the film. I'd be curious to see the chronological cut, but I did enjoy the film as is.

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