Thursday, 30 January 2014

Frozen (2005)

A deeply ambiguous metaphysical and psychological thriller, with plenty to say on the duality of siblings and the sisterly bond, Frozen is a rather eyecatching and atmospheric debut from director Juliet McKoen who co-wrote the script with Jayne Steel.

Shirley Henderson, that beguiling actress of the little girl lost screen persona, plays Kath Swarbrick, a fishery worker in Fleetwood, Lancs whose sister, Annie disappeared without trace two years ago. When Kath is shown some strange CCTV footage purportedly of Annie the night she vanished, her grip on reality starts to unravel and she begins to have recurring visions of her sister in an austere otherworldly landscape. Friends and colleagues are concerned for her sanity and beg her to stop her own personal investigation into the disappearance and even her counsellor, a local clergyman played by Roshan Seth fails to convince her to leave it and she determinedly takes up a dangerous path that could lead to her own death or disappearance.  

This is a strong and curious independent feature that takes an obscure path, preferring to pose questions of us as to just what we think is going on. Are Kath's visions a clue to Annie's whereabouts, a glimpse into the afterlife or a warning for her own safety? Not since Blow Up perhaps has a thriller been so deliberately vague or so confident to leave its meaning up to each individual viewer. For me, the reveal at the end was just right and in no way a let down. It nailed my preconception as to what was going on perfectly.

Henderson carries the film well and her endearing characterisation immediately gains audience sympathy, but she's ably assisted by a great supporting cast of well known faces including the aforementioned Seth, Richard Armitage, Sean Harris, George Costigan, Jamie Sives, Maxine Peake, Richard Ridings, Ger Ryan, Ralf Little, Lyndsey Marshal and Stephen Lord. 

The film is beautifully if starkly shot by Philip Robertson's Hi-Def lenses, capturing the essence of the chilly North West coast of England perfectly. It takes a region I know well - having holidayed in and around Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Blackpool and Morecambe many time in my childhood - and retains its familiar whilst at the same time depicts a rich seam of something alien and aloof to the locale. It's suitably intriguing for such an intriguing thought provoking film. 

Now, where has Juliet McKoen gone?

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