Frozen's story makes not a lick of real sense. But, it's debatable that it matters, when surrounded by a pair of excellent performances, an incredible sense of atmosphere and an uncannily skilled storyteller.

That storyteller is Juliet McKoen, a first time writer/director who fashions a film that blends disparate elements from mystery, horror and human sibling bonds along with the journey through life and death. It almost feels that McKoen struggles with defying simple categorisation in a film that almost demands to fit into a genre.

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Suicidal Kath Swarbrick's (Shirley Henderson) sister disappeared two years ago and the police have done all they can to locate her. Eventually, through Kath's determination and childlike charm, a sympathetic policeman lets her see all the evidence they have collated on the case. She steals a CCTV tape of the last known whereabouts and visits the location in an effort to investigate the matter on her own. Noyen (Rosan Seth), a clergyman who is also her counsellor, tries to help where he can and begins to fall for the rapidly destitute Kath.

Henderson reveals herself a great leading lady. She holds this difficult movie together in a powerhouse performance of quiet steel. We fully believe her dogged determinination to uncover what she can about her missing sibling. Her inability to grieve for Annie is the film's most potent quality; it pervades every moment - and Henderson is key to its power. A moment spent on her face tells far more than any eloquent soliloquy. And the crisp, cool photography chills the viewer, judiciously storyboarded for impact that follows through the isolation ideal superbly.

Seth adds refined class to the film. The story belongs to him, as much as The Shawshank Redemption belonged to Morgan Freeman. His voice-over narrative explains the struggles between protecting the family and his growing responsibility for Kath. Their counselling and eventual scenes together have a richness, his life lessons and intelligence challenged by Kath's unschooled, but astute, gut feeling and internal wisdom. Their dialogue doesn't sound like any conversation I've ever heard, but it's naturally delivered and entirely believable.

A shocking, desperate and thinly revelatory finale leaves me as much as an unfinished poem does, falling into genre cliche just when the film was captivating me.

Frozen is often stilted and meandering - it left me aching for more and less at the same time. Its pondering, deliberative nature invites analysis. And fascination.

McKoen is a filmmaker to watch.

Reviewed on: 27 Jan 2006
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Searching for a lost sister. Debut feature that blends mystery, horror and filial bonding.
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Director: Juliet McKoen

Writer: Juliet McKoen, Jayne Steel

Starring: Shirley Henderson, Roshan Seth, Jamie Sives, Natalie Henderson, Sean Harris, Richard Armstrong, Ralf Little, Lyndsey Marshal, Shireen Shah

Year: 2005

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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