You’ll need time to emotionally recover and get yourself together after watching the SXSW film Coldwater. It’s a compelling and emotional ride, easily worthy of being named the best movie at the the festival.
Coldwater is about a high school kid named Brad Lunders (PJ Boudousque). In the middle of the night, two men from a juvenile reform facility handcuff him and take him away. As he adjusts to his new life as a prisoner in this militarized camp, we learn about the circumstances that led to his expulsion from society. It involved him dealing drugs, problems at school, problems with his mother and her new boyfriend at home, as well as an incident at a party involving his girlfriend. He is forced to learn how to deal with the physical and mental abuse dished out by the former Marine Colonel that runs the camp (James C. Burns) and his employees that take a sick pleasure in doling out punishment.
Will he or the other campers ever be free? Will the camp be exposed for the evils that they’ve successfully hidden? The movie doesn’t end how you’d expect and you’re emotionally drained by the end after following Brad’s attempted escape from hell.
It’s tough to describe the brilliance of the movie without giving away too much of the plot. But you can’t say enough about Boudousque’s performance as Brad in this film. He doesn’t deal drugs or get into trouble because he’s a bad person. Far from it. He does these things because he’s unsatisfied with his life, whether it be at home or at school. He’s willing to change himself for his girlfriend, the only one that makes him happy, and gets mad at his best friend when it looks like he might go down the same path.
While this is a work of fiction, writer/director Vincent Grashaw’s movie is grounded in reality, which is why the emotions felt by the characters and the audience are so real. This kind of abuse happens all the time in reform facilities in the US and much of what you see in the movie is based on true stories that Grashaw found.
The tale is so gripping that there’s a moment about halfway through the movie where the screen goes black and while only text appears on the screen, the audience audibly reacted to what the words meant for the characters. That’s how good this movie is.
We try to watch movies with a critical eye. While we try to keep an open mind so that we can enjoy them more, we always try to think of things that the movie could have done better and where it fell short. But then there are those times where everything comes together so well that you completely lose yourself in the characters and the story, so much so that you have to give yourself time to process what you just saw on screen and let your emotions settle before you can write, or even talk.
That is the case with Coldwater. It’s so good that I have no doubt in my mind that you’ll see it in theaters soon along with other films that Grashaw will write/direct and Boudousque will star in, in the future. You should definitely go out of your way to watch this movie, because you won’t be the same after you do.