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Glasgow Film Festival 2024 – Cold ★★



Released: 2024

Director: Erlingur Thoroddsen

Starring: Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Ólöf Halla Jóhannesdóttir

Review By: Billie Walker

In Nordic noir, a police perspective is typical for the genre. But Cold, with its winks at the paranormal, seeks to investigate crime without the overbearing formula of law enforcement. As our detective Ódinn (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) strays further and further from his post in order to get to the heart of the mystery.

Cold, directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen, follows Ódinn (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) and his daughter Rún (Ólöf Halla Jóhannesdóttir) struggling to come to terms with the sudden suicide of Rún’s mother. However as Ódinn uncovers the truth behind the unsolved deaths at a juvenile center, connections to his ex-wife and troubled daughter begin to reveal themself.

Writers Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Erlingur Thoroddsen have split the family mystery over two timelines. The past, holding the answers that Ódinn is trying to uncover, is a haunting rural landscape, while the present is an urban sprawl that sends similar shivers. Clearly whatever transpired has had ripple effects. Inherited trauma surfaces in moments that defy rationale, but this generational concept has become so often depicted in recent years across horrors and thrillers alike that it takes a unique conceptualization to effectively thrill.

For a complex plot with many returns to the past and violent secrets to be unearthed, its brisk runtime and quick scenes flip between timelines. Each discovery (of which there are many) has little time to breathe, the audience cannot find time to effectively react, and  with the constant jumps we find ourselves unable to attach ourselves to the characters. An effectively creepy debut performance from Ólöf Halla Jóhannesdóttir, playing the damaged daughter Rún, deserved more stretched out moments, to truly unsettle us. 

As Ódinn digs deeper into history to find out what happened to the dead, the much more recent ghost of his family’s past weighs heavily on his daughter’s mind. Of course Rún is affected by the suicide of her late mother, but there is more going on with her than a typical grief stricken teenager. Ólöf Halla Jóhannesdóttir’s strong performance does little to make up for the cliched imagery. Far too often scary drawings and violence towards animals are symptomatic of the disturbed child, leaving the dramatic twist unsurprising to anyone with even the slightest interest in thrillers. It is its constant return to well worn plotlines that continuously let the film down.

The brutal realism of the architecture matched with the cold lighting of the present day, do succeed in evoking the titular temperature. Cold is as its name suggests and although its atmospheric nature is quintessential to the genre, its temperature and unsatisfying mystery only succeed at leaving us out in it.

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