Directed by Brendan Walsh.
Starring Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza.
A married couple find themselves trapped in their frozen vehicle after a blizzard and struggle to survive amid plunging temperatures and unforeseen obstacles.
Centigrade has all the makings to be one of the most incredible feats of survival ever put to screen. Even knowing Brendan Walsh’s debut directorial feature (his only previous credits are in television) is inspired by true events thanks to some background information before the film officially starts, during the second half I couldn’t escape the feeling that what I was seeing was so preposterous that there had to be some embellishments. And I’m sure things were dramatized, but the major events are apparently all true as some pre-ending credits text made me eat some crow right as I was getting ready to bash this survivalism character study as beyond ridiculous.
Then my mind shifted to trying to figure out why Centigrade still didn’t work (this is an unorthodox review as you appear to be getting my writing process as well), and how such defiant willpower to survive left me mostly unengaged and indifferent by the closing shot. Right off the bat, I can tell you stars Vincent Piazza and Genesis Rodriguez are not to blame, as they take being front and center while being stuck in one location, doing everything possible to define these characters and balance this relationship as a somewhat healthy one that is hitting some bumps in the road. Naturally, they have to battle everything from hypothermia to isolation, coming across as believable human beings doing so.
Brendan Walsh also co-writes the film (alongside Daley Nixon), and it’s safe to say that he is a better writer than a director at this point, although he has challenged himself to the point where he is probably in over his head working inside of the confined space subgenre of horror. Wisely, there is no attempt to show us how this couple ended up stranded with their vehicle covered in snow at the expense of a nasty blizzard; if the rest of this movie already has problems coming across credible despite really happening, I can’t imagine how contrived and forced filming two characters pulling over and falling asleep during a blizzard only to wake up buried in snow would have been on film. Some things are better left organically explained through dialogue rather than shown, although that’s not to say a more experienced filmmaker couldn’t have made it work. Regardless, eschewing any kind of prologue or introduction actually works for Centigrade, tossing audiences right into the cold.
Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) also happens to be extremely pregnant while trying to survive. Anyone that has ever seen a movie involving a pregnant character involved in a perilous situation already knows where this is going, which brings up another issue with Centigrade; empowering and inspirational at surface value or reading about the real Naomi’s fight for survival, on-screen this is actually cliché largely relying on acting talent to save the day. About the only intriguing dynamic to possibly latch onto here only occurs if you are familiar with the theory that if a fractured couple has a baby, the problems will be solved. Matt (Vincent Piazza) teeters the line between pushing Naomi to not give up and eradicate herself defeatist mindset to seemingly having anger problems. There’s a sequence where he berates her for taking prescribed medication, among other unkind things that bring into question just how healthy of a relationship this was. Nevertheless, when the baby is born (fuck spoilers, you knew it was going to happen as soon as I mentioned she was a pregnant character trying to survive), the lovers get on the same page when it comes to getting out alive.
Aside from that, it’s mostly just bickering regarding the correct approach to their predicament and slow scenes of not much happening. At only 89 minutes, Centigrade is still strained for material; you could probably cut down the final act by 15 minutes and while it probably wouldn’t be a good movie yet, it would at least be tighter without dragging itself across the finish line. Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent Piazza are two solid performers working with a tantalizing hook that Brendan Walsh simply doesn’t know to realize with cinematic flair or strong emotion. Again, that’s insane considering what Centigrade is about.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com