The Oxbow Cure had me shivering for all sorts of reasons.
Directors Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas are able to flawlessly create moods and feelings using minimalist tactics. With its few instances of dialogue aside, this low budget Kickstarter passion project is practically a silent film as we watch a distressed but tranquil woman named Lena (played carefully by playwright Claudia Dey) escape to a snowy cabin in the woods to carry out an isolation experiment. Is it for personal reasons or for something else entirely? You’ll soon find out if your patience serves you well.
During a scene where Lena turns on a heater and the camera watches the element glow warmer and warmer, it hit me that The Oxbow Cure would probably be one of those meticulous but slow moving movies. But, just as one’s about to judge the film, it impresses by making the uninteresting interesting.
Lena goes on a lot of walks and observes every detail and while movie goers feel the minutes tick on by, we aren’t bothered. Lewis and Thomas are able to keep their film in motion, which is a tough task to do when the film is this quiet. We’re transfixed by the crisp cinematography and the directorial pairs’ visual abilities. When Lena is trapped, we feel suffocated. When she’s blissfully overlooking the scenic landscapes, the audience feels just as relaxed. And, bring a jacket because The Oxbow Cure’s frosty backdrop is going to make you feel chilly.
While the filmmaking duo does a fine job of creating these effective essences and nuances, it isn’t wrong for the audience to wonder if the climax of this woman’s story is going to be as strong as these sensory building blocks. The longer Lewis and Thomas keep us waiting, the larger the skepticism gets.
However, this indie gets increasingly psychological; with imagery that seriously freaked me out. The duo know how to tease accordingly and when a big reveal is ready to be recognized, the two know how to present it. The reactions may come across as more subdued than you expected, but it all adds up to compelling satisfaction.
I’ve seen my fair share of recent minimalist movies and I’ve given less-than-favourable reviews to those filmmakers who have gotten swallowed up in their own droopy inactivity. To those filmmakers: watch The Oxbow Cure and take notes. This artfully atmospheric and ominous flick will teach you a thing or two and treat composed audiences just the same.
The Oxbow Cure is now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. On August 23, movie goers attending the 7:30 p.m. screening will be treated to a Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas Q&A afterwards.