In my original write-up on Cold Weather back in October, I noted Katz’ ability to bring the audience to a community in Portland – I cannot stress what he does enough. In Cold Weather, Katz begins his film not only by introducing his characters, but by introducing the environment and terrain. The warmth of an apartment lamp or the chill of an ice factory is felt. But at its core, Katz uses the environment to humanize his rich characters. By the end of Cold Weather, you not only gather a sense of the climate of Portland, but of its community – of three people who live and breathe there.
Katz uses his lead character in Doug (Cris Lankenau) to establish tone – he’s a bit of a slacker who acquires a job in an ice factory. When asked by his parents if he plans on returning to school to obtain his forensic science degree, he simply notes that it’s a possibility. From the onset of the film, Doug moves in with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Doug befriends his coworker Carlos (Raul Castillo) and lends him a copy of Sherlock Holmes. Meanwhile, Doug’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) returns to Portland from Chicago – she’s training for a job and wants to spend some time with Doug. So Doug invites Rachel to a poker night he’s throwing with people from work. Funny thing is that only Rachel and Carlos show up, along with Gail. The plot doesn’t necessary “happen” or unfold at this point – Katz wisely uses the first act as a means of establishing character and tone. We gather a sense of what each character likes, what they don’t like, making them more relatable and human. When the plot does happen, it’s less a device, but more an organic progression of the narrative developing. The allure of its plot though, is that it both makes sense and does not compromise the characters’ personalities. You watch ordinary people embark on extraordinary things, but even then, there’s nonchalance to the way it’s all done. There’s an active disinterest in subscribing to traditional thriller tropes, with Katz emphasizing character and community over anything else. Films with such an interest are simply not made anymore.