- Frozen movie (2005) review: Despite its intriguing premise and haunting finale, Juliet McKoen’s psychological drama and metaphysical thriller mix is handicapped by a series of plot holes and by star Shirley Henderson’s less-than-persuasive performance.
Frozen movie (2005) review: Plot holes & central miscasting mar unsettling metaphysical thriller
The tale of a Lancashire Coast fishery worker obsessed with the mysterious disappearance of her older sister, Juliet McKoen’s Frozen is a curious mélange of psychological drama and metaphysical thriller. The end result is an equally mixed bag.
Inspired by a couple of real-life stories – while owing a debt to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, George Sluizer’s The Vanishing, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (and, indirectly, its Brian De Palma “homage,” Obsession) – the narrative, though conceptually intriguing, lacks both coherence and plausibility.
Compounding matters, Scottish actress Shirley Henderson is seriously miscast as the borderline-pathological heroine.
Frozen plot + plot holes
Written by McKoen and Jayne Steel, Frozen has a troubling question as its starting point: What to do when a loved one has disappeared without a trace for more than two years?
Kath Swarbrick (Shirley Henderson) decides to take matters into her own hands once police investigations begin winding down. A strange glitch on some CCTV footage of Kath’s sister on the day of her disappearance seems to reveal a clue about the matter – or is it all the workings of Kath’s increasingly unbalanced mind?
Unfortunately, Kath’s obsessive search for the truth fails to become the basis for a first-rate mystery thriller largely due to numerous plot holes that require major suspension of disbelief. The most egregious of these takes place near the end, when a crucial – and absurdly contrived twist – takes Kath on a life-threatening path.
The fact that the ultimate dénouement remains effective is a testament both to McKoen’s talent as a director and to the intrinsic qualities of the basic storyline. A little more care with the logical setup of the preceding sequences would have turned Frozen into a much more potent experience.
Mystery CCTV footage overemphasis
Besides, an undue emphasis on the CCTV footage, which is played ad nauseam throughout the film, is another distraction. The scenes showing the video recording of the missing girl, though important as an indication of Kath’s neuroses and of the video’s key role in the story, feel gimmicky at times – whenever in doubt about how to proceed with the plot, show the same grainy footage one more time.
Instead, McKoen and Steel should have spent more time developing the relationship between Kath and her clergyman counselor (Roshan Seth), and providing us with a better understanding of both the reticent dockland security manager (Richard Armitage), who may have something to hide, and the lowbred Jim (Jamie Sives), the missing woman’s former fiancé.
Miscast Shirley Henderson
Best known for Trainspotting, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and for playing Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Shirley Henderson has to carry the dramatic weight of Frozen on her shoulders. She valiantly tries to accomplish the task, but is unable to fully convey Kath’s sense of loss and desperation, resorting instead to little-girl looks and exclamations that, coming from an actress in her late 30s, feel coy rather than endearing.
On the positive side, besides the story’s intriguing elements, McKoen’s desolate fishing village (shot in and around Morecambe Bay) feels palpably real, while Richard Armitage is a solid screen presence as the helpful but taciturn security manager.
Additionally, Frozen offers a series of starkly beautiful images captured by Philip Robertson’s lenses (by way of high-definition digital equipment). These are crucial in enhancing the quasi-otherworldly mood of the story and characters, especially at the film’s haunting conclusion.
Director: Juliet McKoen.
Screenplay: Juliet McKoen & Jayne Steel.
Cast: Shirley Henderson. Roshan Seth. Richard Armitage. Ger Ryan. Shireen Shah. Ralf Little. Jamie Sives. Sean Harris.
“Frozen Movie (2005) Review” endnotes
Shirley Henderson went on to win Best Actress honors at both the Marrakech Film Festival and the BAFTA Scotland Awards.
Shirley Henderson Frozen movie images: Liminal Films.
“Frozen: Creepy But Problematic Metaphysical Thriller” last updated in September 2021.