|Bijou Abas stars in Cold November. (Monument Releasing)|
MOVIE REVIEWThere is a lot to take in Karl Jacob’s independent film, Cold November. His film is unique in that it combines a young woman’s coming of age story with the sport of deer hunting. The story centers on 12-year-old Florence (played by Bijou Abas) who is excited to experience her first deer hunt, a tradition that has been carried out by the different generations of women before her.
Florence lives in a rural area somewhere in Middle America. The film does a great job of showing what it is like to be a family living in the boonies and not make the family appear to be country hicks with a bunch of teeth missing. They don’t have much, but they aren’t poor either. They have electricity, but apparently they don’t have indoor plumbing for some reason. Florence doesn’t own a cell phone but I doubt that she would get reception even if she did. Nor would she be calling anyone as she doesn’t seem to have any friends. She doesn’t seem to mind. She spends time in the garage with her city she built out of cardboard boxes and Matchbox cars. Then the time has come for her to receive her hunting license and prove to her family that she knows how to shoot a rifle. Top it off with Florence experiencing her first period welcoming her to womanhood. The girl has a lot on her mind.
Florence lives with her mother (Anna Klemp) and Grandma (Mary Kay Fortier-Spalding) who lives nearby, is the family’s hunting expert. The pair teach Florence all they know from gun safety to skinning a deer. They are very thorough. We get to sit with Florence and her mom as they wait for the deer to come out. And wait. And wait.
There is more to Cold November than just the pre-teen’s journey of shooting her first deer. Florence’s aunt and uncle (Heidi Fellner and Jacob) come to visit for the season and are still reeling from the death of their daughter. It is not discussed how or when she died, but it must be fairly recent. Jacob has some clever ideas comparing how killing one’s first deer can draw out all kinds of emotions and there are a couple of tender moments of honest conversation. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. There’s a great story here, but a lot of it is buried. Florence’s father is absent from the story. In fact, he is never mentioned at all. Is he dead? Did her parents get a divorce? Does Florence miss not having a dad? We don’t know.
The film promotes itself to be a dramatic thriller where there is a point when Florence has to “pull herself together and face becoming an adult” when she gets separated from the rest of her family. The problem here is that Jacob doesn’t fill us in on much. Abas is a great little actress who seems believable throughout the film, but the writing doesn’t allow for her to share with us about what she’s thinking when she is alone with her thoughts, which is often. We see her react, but it’s unclear about what she is reacting to. Is she afraid of being alone? She doesn’t appear to be. Suddenly, she gets mad. Why? We don’t know. Later, she panics. Then she composes herself and moves on as if nothing happened. These scenes are disconcerting and we know that because of the tense music. In the end though, there just isn’t much there. Still, Cold November is a fine, but overly long movie that promotes positive perspectives of family life, grief and hunting.