Films that take place in a single location, trapped films they are sometimes called, rely heavily on one or two characters at the center. When these characters don't captivate or carry the film, the single location can become claustrophobic. This results in the audience feeling more trapped than the characters in the film. Such is the case with writer-director Brendan Walsh's Centigrade.
This two-hander involves a couple who get trapped in a car buried under snow. The film is "inspired by actual events" and does keep a reasonable realism to the proceedings. The film begins with Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) and Matt (Vincent Piazza) already stuck, waking up from having to pull over during a blizzard on the side of a remote road in Norway. We learn early on that Naomi is 8 months pregnant. Now why she would travel outside the country to a remote part in Norway is a question that is never addressed. The couple begins quickly to bicker about whose fault it is that they are in this situation.
The big riff between Naomi and Matt is that Matt thinks they should stay put and wait for help and Naomi wants to break a window and crawl out. They ration food and water and spend the majority of the second act fighting and waiting. This is where Centigrade really falters. The strong premise and start to the film quickly dissolves into a slow, tedious slog. Part of the problem is that there isn't anything else to the narrative. We never get inside Matt or Naomi's heads to see them lose track of time, make tough calls on how to survive, or anything else that would carry the film along.
Rodriguez and Piazza are solid actors and a real couple but the screenplay doesn't give them much to chew on. Matt in particular is a dull character whose plan to stay put means he doesn't have much to do. Kudos though to the actors for having to spend hours on a cold set. Technically the film is shot very nicely by Seamus Tierney. He is able to find interesting ways to move the camera in such a small space.
Centigrade gets the despair of the situation right but too often the film lacks plot developments that would keep audiences engaged. The short runtime, therefore, feels twice as long.