Edge Of Winter is a film filled with good intentions that fails to deliver anything of note despite having a fairly compelling premise. In a world where everything produced by anyone is rated from good to bad it is a firm ‘OK’ and nothing more.
Joel Kinnaman delivers his best tortured soul performance since The Killing as Elliot Baker, an uneasy divorced dad in desperate need of a break. After a weekend bonding moment with his sons goes awry Elliot learns his ex-wife is planning to take his boys away from him while stranded thirty miles from the closest town, leaving him with a lot of unchecked emotions and two kids in need of shelter. His efforts to save them, as well as his emotional fight to stay connected to them, leads to a mental unraveling just about the time his family encounters a pair of mysterious strangers in the woods. It’s an overly complex setup that demands a lot from Kinnaman, and to his credit he is the glue that holds the film together as it stumbles from psychological melodrama to faux-action thriller and back again.
Bringing Elliot’s sons to life is fast-rising star Percy Hynes White and Marvel’s new Spider-Man, Tom Holland. Both young men are tasked with keeping the film grounded as the father’s behavior grows increasingly erratic, and they each meet that challenge to varying degrees. White is the weaker of the two, though admittedly so is his character. Compared to White’s material Holland would appear to have an open platform to display his talent, which he makes the most of in all the angst-laden glory the role demands.
Edge Of Winter’s biggest flaw is that it simply tries to be too much for its scant, 86-minute runtime. The emotionally driven first half allows you to become so deeply engaged with the internal struggles of the Baker family that the external drama they encounter is almost overwhelming. The narrative pivot required for the story to switch gears forces the film to begin sprinting before it has properly established or even really alluded to what is going on in Elliot’s mind. There are questions of supernatural tie-ins that are teased, but never explored, and psychological battles that are underutilized. It works, thanks in no small part to its cast, but in the way Scotch tape can hold something together that should have been made with glue.
I can imagine the meeting where distribution for Edge Of Winter was decided, and I bet it included the phrases Suicide Squad and Civil War being mentioned as arguments for why it should be given a limited theatrical run (not to mention early VOD release). Kinnaman and Holland are increasingly valuable names to have attached to your project, and Edge of Winter just so happens to have both in a film that I cannot imagine either one saying yes to today. Though the script from Kyle Mann and Rob Connolly—the later of whom also directs—aspires to offer some kind of Shining-like tale of madness in under 90 minutes, the final product is too flimsy and tonally uneven to ever be properly thrilling. I rarely say movies need to be longer, but in this case that might be true.