What lengths is a father willing to go to protect his kids? Or more rather should we ask, what lengths would a father go to prevent losing his kids, while still trying to protect them from himself? It’s a convoluted scenario, but one which Rob Connolly’s Edge of Winter does its best to explore in this tension-filled thriller that at times is able to build an incredible amount of suspense over nothing at all.

The film stars Joel Kinnaman as a divorced father, Elliott Baker, who jumps at the chance to spend time with his two boys Bradley (Tom Holland) and Caleb (Percy Hynes White) when their mother and her partner need to go on a trip out of town. Elliott seldom gets the opportunity to bond with his sons given a history of long personal issues which have prevented him from spending time with them in the past and decides that it’s the perfect opportunity to teach his sons how to drive and shoot a gun. Given the cold weather and their fickle relationships though, things quickly go off track and the weekend becomes a lot more than just a bonding session. They now need to fight for their lives, both from the elements and each other.

Edge of Winter’s story of a down and out father trying to connect with his sons is not an original one, but thanks to a remarkable performance by Kinnamen as the well-intentioned, but often highly misguided father this film stands out as a remarkably compelling one. You feel for the character and really learn to love him despite all of his flaws, even rooting for him when he just seems to keep messing up as a father. At least for much of the film’s run-time.

For much of the film’s first half, it focuses firmly on Elliot and his relationship with his son’s and the onscreen chemistry between the three actors is incredible at bringing out both the natural connection they have with each other and the very realistic and relatable tension that sometimes ensues as they have to deal with the consequences of certain decisions mostly as a result of Elliott’s behaviour.

Director Rob Connolly does an exceptional job in these early scenes of not just bringing setting up these characters and their different behaviours, but also in making the film feel tense at times even when nothing much is actually going wrong. The film is filled with a lot of moments of impending doom which often far from ever occurring, but does showcase some the incredible strengths of the director. These early parts of the film are remarkable, gripping viewing. All the more impressive when you consider that for most of the film, it’s just these three actors on the screen. It helps as well that much of the film’s scenery and setting are beautiful to look at too.

Ironically where the film starts to lose a lot of its brooding tension is when the stakes go higher and it turns into more of your typical thriller. Much of this probably lies with the fact that up to this point, the characters have remained mostly very grounded and relatable in their behaviour, but when intentions start to shift for the more sinister you lose a lot of this connection and the suddenness of it all robs the film of the tension that was so superbly set up. The film also starts to become a little more predictable and as the film started moving towards its climax, I felt like I was merely just waiting for it to end, a stark and disappointing turnaround considering I was so gripped by the opening moments of the film.

There is still a lot to like though about Edge of Winter if you look at the setting and exceptional performances of its cast, but if you are looking for a movie that is going to maintain its thrills for the entire runtime, you are going to find it very disappointing. There is a lot to like, but much like the film’s setting, the tension quickly melts away when you most need it to bite.

Last Updated: January 30, 2018

Edge of Winter (DVD)
There is a lot to like about Edge of Winter's excellent acting performances and well-built icy tension, but sadly much of what makes it initially so compelling melts away when you most need it to bite.

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