Cold Road

Cold Road Review: Freezingly Slow With Almost No Heat

Cold Road attempts to capture prevalent and crucial issues within Canada but crashes in its execution. The film has a truly compelling story that draws vital attention to the abuse of Indigenous peoples; however, its lack of action and concise dialogue makes it a difficult and slow watch.

The film follows an Indigenous woman, Tracy (Rosanne Supernault), and her dog as they attempt to make it to the remote north before her mother dies. Their journey is complicated by a mysterious stranger in a semi-truck who endangers their lives. The main narrative touches on the important and harrowing discussion of colonial abuse and is the film’s greatest strength.

Unfortunately, the story is continuously bogged down with piles of exposition that overwhelms the dialogue. Stuck in her car for most of the film, Tracy constantly talks to herself. At certain moments, it feels as though she is talking directly to the audience. But Cold Road has no trust in the viewer to feel or understand this terrifying situation without explaining every detail. Even in interactions with other characters, Tracy continued to speak to herself (or us) to explain exactly what she is thinking.

Not only is Cold Road filled with unnecessary conversation, but the dialogue is cheesy and merely a tool for conflated conflict. Strangely stale phone conversations with her sister stick out like a sore thumb as they inorganically attempt to add excitement to the dragging story. It just makes no sense for the characters. Additionally, any moments of interesting choice from the main character are muddied by dialogue that sounds like it belongs to a YA novel protagonist.

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Weighted with lethargic solo conversations, Supernault has no space to add emotional depth to her character until it is too late. Fortunately, near the end, she manages to explore new dramatic complexity when the story provides her with more to do. Unfortunately, she plays one surface-level tone for the majority of the film—to the point where you have to impose your own emotions to add some excitement.

The first half of the movie drags, meandering across expositional scenes that introduce nothing of real value. A basic, stereotypical absentee husband is introduced, but quickly dropped halfway through the movie as the narrative approaches its best and most thrilling sequences. Select moments in the second half of the film do manage to inject the production with life, providing dynamic exchanges and an entertaining thrill. Unfortunately, any good will from the audience has been used up long before those moments arise.

Another glaring issue is the lack of logic in the plot itself. The film continuously relies on outrageously impossible scenarios or action to propel it forward. Tracy repeatedly and randomly stops at the side of the road, when time is of the essence and she’s low on gas, simply to get out or just to stop. A few moments are justified by a pet’s washroom break but the rest are her randomly pulling over for no apparent reason. Countless times she makes choices that are necessary for the plot’s forward momentum but which make zero sense in time and place.

Despite the lack of thrill or logic, the film does manage to scrape together a few moments of terror. The antagonistic semi-truck is notably menacing without even needing to know the driver. The vehicle’s continual nearing successfully holds moments of suspense on par with the classic predatory shark from Jaws. These moments would have been exceptional if they were paired with more silence. The film fumbles the suspense by adding sound instead of taking it away. Inserting obvious attempts at increased sonic melodrama kills any chance of scenes building on their natural darkness. Overall, the soundtrack fails to compensate for the lack of conflict and only makes it worse.

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Despite the compelling core idea behind the film, Cold Road fails to execute its great potential. Stuck with wrong-footed and unnecessary dialogue and countless logic issues, it can’t seem to honour its well-intentioned heart. The few moments that are exceptionally executed almost feel out of place compared to the rest of the film. Trying way too hard to explain and not enough to show, the film drags on and when it finally does get exciting, you likely will have stopped watching.

Cold Road is in select Canadian theatres now and is available digitally on March 5.



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