Written and directed by Liz Whitmere, Cold is a powerful film that uses frigid temperatures to speak into the loneliest aspects of mental health. Although the concept seems almost otherworldly, Whitmere keeps the film grounded. Backed by powerful performances by Scrofano and Baek, Cold simply feels honest. And that’s what makes it most chilling.
Cold tells the story of Jane (Melanie Scrofano), a woman who has just turned 40 but remains inexplicably (and increasingly) chilled to the bone. Something is wrong—but she doesn’t know what to do about it. She reaches out to her partner, Theo (Sean Baek) and her friends but they insist that this is just part of ‘the Change’. However, as things worsen, Jane continues to fall apart, both figuratively and literally.
Not a moment is wasted as we watch Jane slowly fade away. In fact, Jane’s pigment changes so gradually that, by the time it’s too late, one can’t help but wonder how things had gotten so far without others noticing. (Frankly, credit must be given to the film’s colourist who does an excellent job.)
This isn’t merely a story of one woman’s inability to stay warm. It’s an exploration of the ways that people can suffer in silence.
What really gives Cold its heat is its exploration of emotional trauma. Through Jane’s journey, Whitmere taps into the painful drain that one’s mental health can have on the soul. Jane knows that she’s suffering yet she simply cannot break the cycle. (“I don’t want to feel this way. I’m just cold,” she repeats.) Therein lies the beauty—and the horror—of Cold.
Despite the fact that she reaches out for help, Jane is still suffering alone.
Strangely, it’s not that the people in her life don’t care. It’s simply that they’re not willing to engage. For whatever reason, no one is willing to sit in the moment with her and acknowledge the depth of her feelings. The perceived compassion of her partner soon becomes about his own needs. The daily challenges of her friends minimize her own struggle. They recognize her problem yet rarely take the time to genuinely listen to her pain.
“What you’re feeling is normal,” she’s told repeatedly.
With a simple premise but complex emotions, Whitmere has created something truly special that speaks to the inner sadness that one can carry with them in their daily lives. Because of this, while Cold may be brief, its honest exploration of mental health struggles breathes fire.
Cold premiered at Blood in the Snow on Saturday, November 25th, 2023.