A very pregnant American couple gets stuck beneath sheets and sheets of ice, stranded somewhere in the mountains of Norway. Based on a true story, it’s a daunting idea, one as frigid as it is claustrophobic. The way it plays on film is the most basic formulation of a bottle film. Stuck in their car, sweet couple Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez, fine) and Matt (Vincent Piazza, also fine) have little food, no heat source outside of each other, and a few secrets they have saved for just this moment to pressurize to the surface.
The truest terror of the whole thing is their pregnancy. It is always a manipulative tactic in movies, a baby not even a second old, in immediate peril. We have to know because it is based on a true story, how does that go? You can extrapolate how it goes based on a movie being made about it all.
Centigrade suffers from the forced claustrophobia, the couple’s SUV playing as our primary setting, while the wonderous arctic mountains sit just outside it. That is the whole premise and so by consequence, also the primary restriction. There are techniques that could have been used to really ratchet the feeling and purpose of the couple’s seclusion, but it stands as a missed opportunity. The movie leads us only to care about the impending childbirth.
What does not work are the characterizations more generally. We do not put much stake in the chemistry of the actors. It feels like the relationship could fall apart and it would be fine. Waveringly, they sell the hunger and pain of cold but recover from it in the next scene. In -30 degree weather, it is hard to believe that it is not just constant misery, or maybe your emotions eventually freeze over, too. The actors do not seem to believe the threat of their set, that they are in a dangerous situation. It never reads that way in their body language, which is frigid but not only because of the cold.
There is likely a fine little movie to make here. The keyword ought to be little, in this case. Centigrade plows on and on — 89 minutes of one idea. And we know how it will go. Basically. We can hear the premise and understand the broad strokes. So we sit with the couple, as they learn basic teamwork and trust, and hope for the best.