HomeMovie ReviewsFrozen Movie (2005) Review: Metaphysical Thriller Treads Tenuous Line Between Sanity & Madness

Frozen Movie (2005) Review: Metaphysical Thriller Treads Tenuous Line Between Sanity & Madness


Frozen movie (2005) review: Shirley Henderson stars as a woman in search of her missing sister in Juliet McKoen’s flawed yet disturbing metaphysical thriller that treads the thin line separating sanity from madness, reality from illusion, life from death. (Pictured: Shirley Henderson in Frozen.)
  • Frozen movie (2005) review: Despite its intriguing premise and haunting finale, Juliet McKoen’s psychological drama/metaphysical thriller 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 – but clearly owing a debt to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, George Sluizer’s The Vanishing, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (and 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 considerably 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.

Frozen movie with Shirley Henderson. CCTV footage (shades of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up) is the engine propelling an emotionally unbalanced woman on her obsessive search for her missing sister. Is there something on the videotape that she should – but can’t – see?

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.[1]

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.

Frozen (2005)

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. Rebecca Palmer. George Costigan. Lyndsey Marshal. Karl Johnson. Richard Ridings. Jayne Ashbourne. Nick Bagnall. Heather Waters.

Cinematography: Philip Robertson. Film Editing: Paul Endacott. Music: Guy Michelmore. Production Design: Loren Slater. Producer: Mark Lavender.


Frozen Movie (2005) Review” notes

Award winner Shirley Henderson

[1]Update: Shirley Henderson went on to win Best Actress honors at both the Marrakech Film Festival and the BAFTA Scotland Awards.


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If you liked “Frozen Movie (2005) Review: Metaphysical Thriller Treads Tenuous Line Between Sanity & Madness,” check out:


Frozen movie reviewed at the AFI FEST.

Frozen movie cast and crew information via the IMDb and other sources.

Shirley Henderson Frozen movie images: Liminal Films.

Frozen Movie (2005) Review: Metaphysical Thriller Treads Tenuous Line Between Sanity & Madness” last updated in March 2021.

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4 comments

Jessica -

Try Ebay Australia. That’s where I got my copy of Frozen.

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Mark -

The best film I’ve seen in a dacede! Where can I get it?

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Rosemarie Leonard -

I’ve just watched this film on BBC iPlayer. It held me spelbound … it was so atmospheric and the acting was superb - especially the lead actress. Congratulations to Juliet McKoen … I’m off to search out more of her work.

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Elizabeth -

Where can I buy Frozen in a US compatible format?

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