Just in time for the heat wave that covers most of North America comes the wilderness thriller Edge of Winter — set in the coldest, most dangerous heart of cold.
Elliot Baker (Joel Kinnaman) is the estranged father of two boys, Caleb (Percy Hynes White) and Bradley (Tom Holland), whose ex-wife is leaving for a cruise with her new husband.
Elliot has agreed to care for the boys even though they barely know him. He lives alone in a remote northern community and has just been fired for punching his boss.
He decides to teach these “soft” city boys how to fire guns and hunt so they head out into the wild, drinking and driving, then forcing his adolescent son to take the wheel.
They crash as night falls in the middle of nowhere; the phones don’t work, there’s no food and no one’s around for miles. It’s starting to snow heavily.
Gradually the boys begin to realise that their dad is a seriously disturbed, paranoid risk-taker and he’s decided to keep them in the wilderness with him.
His hair-trigger temper and propensity to violence grow as they try to keep him calm.
We spoke to Rob Connolly, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Kyle Mann, and told us the story appealed to them in completely different ways.
Monsters and Critics: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Rob Connolly: Originally the idea came from Kyle the co-writer and producer. Fortunately I cannot relate to having a father like this at all.
I’m blessed with family and friends who are amazing people, especially with Kyle. He had always had this fascination with untrustworthy parents and it became the idea for the film.
I connected to it differently because I spent a lot of spent time in remote areas of Wyoming, Alaska where I worked, and other places.
For me it was the immediate connection to the idea that anything can happen in remote places.
I was fascinated by the idea of not being able to trust people you think are there to be your protector and what happens when things subvert expectations.
M&C: Did Joel Kinnaman’s Elliot have a specific mental illness? How did you write him?
RC: It was important and it became apparent that we had to diagnose him with something even though he hadn’t been.
I researched borderline personality disorder, which became the framework of his character’s specifics of how he would play this. It became apparent, that hair-trigger, that anything can set you off. Irritation that might seem normal or minor is amplified.
The specifics were important. The unpredictability factor. Anything can happen.
He’s never been able to get his own life and has nothing to lose but those kids.
M&C: Is our concern and empathy for a man who is clearly mentally unstable misplaced?
RC: It’s a tricky balance, and I want to give Joel Kinnaman credit. Usually not many people can play a mobster but also have a sympathetic side. Not many actors can do that.
It’s tough to watch in a lot of ways but you can see how he succeeded in doing that.
M&C: You got terrific performances from everyone from Rossif Sutherland to Tom Holland and that tiny powerhouse Percy Hynes White.
RC: He’s just so incredibly talented. I spent a ton of time and auditioned so many kids for his role but when we saw Percy we knew he had to be in the movie.
It was a huge break for us and he’s on his way. We worked so hard on the tone of the experience and I was so proud of him on set every day.
He’s just thirteen and was under taxing, trying conditions. It’s hard enough as an adult.
M&C: That frigid winter landscape is pretty sweet to see in this heat wave. But it’s a treacherous, unfriendly environment. How was it shooting under those conditions? And for Joel and Tom plunging under the ice?
RC: It was tough. When I first met with Joel he said “I’m doing this and I’m going in the water!”.
Later Tom said he wasn’t going in the water, there was no way. But he wound up going in twice and Joel went in once. They were game for anything.
Those are unforgiving conditions and we were there for twenty days straight, enduring the elements.
M&C: Seriously though, how did they stay warm?
RC: When they were in the water they had wet suits under their wardrobes and there was a hot tub in a tent just away from the ice.
But the hot tub never got hot, so they were just lukewarm. The generators would go down for hours at a time. And we were not in a place where you can get equipment at a moment’s notice. But we did have a shovel to relocate snow. Somehow we made it work.
One of the craziest things happened. Sudbury, Ontario, was in a deep freeze and we needed snow for the shoot and for it to feel cold.
It was 40 below zero when we were there in pre-production. But when we were to start shooting, it got to five degrees and the snow was melting. We were trying to beat the clock and we had snow trucked in, and we had to match the shots and erase the sun!
M&C: You thank Seth Rogen in the credits. Why?
RC: I know Seth and his wife Lauren in LA and they were gracious enough to let us use their Vancouver apartment for a month while we were editing.
Edge of Winter is in theaters from August 12.
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