Thursday, December 4, 2014

Movie with Abe: Red Knot

Red Knot
Directed by Scott Cohen
Released December 5, 2014

There’s something about Antarctica in the air right now. Two drastically different films premiered in theaters last week, both exploring the world’s least inhabited continent. “Antarctica: A Year on Ice” was a documentary about the incomparable state and feeling of living in the frozen land for a full year, while “Penguins of Madagascar” took place largely away from the famed land but started off there when it introduced its black-and-white characters. To top it all off, this reviewer returned from his first experience on a cruise just one short week ago, but that must all be coincidence. “Red Knot,” which follows a married couple on a ship bound for Antarctica, is just coming out at a time where its subject matter seems to be awfully popular.

Peter (Vincent Kartheiser) is an author with a strong interest in Antarctica who manages to convince his new wife Chloe (Olivia Thirlby) to accompany him on a research vessel headed there. Though it represents an enormous academic opportunity for him, Peter frames it as a romantic honeymoon for the young couple. Unsurprisingly, Peter pays little attention to Chloe aboard the ship, obsessing over every minute chance to learn from and avail himself to esteemed colleagues. Feeling invisible, Chloe befriends the ship’s captain (Billy Campbell) as she and her distracted husband drift further and further apart as they sail away from civilization.

“Red Knot” is a film built strongly on the parallel of its characters’ physical journey into a sparse but beautiful landscape with the way in which their marriage becomes thinner and less connected. There is a certain dreamlike feel to the film as time becomes less and less clear and signs of life are hard to find. Peter is so immersed in the experience of being surrounded by intellectuals and those who share his passion that he removes himself from his own life, while Chloe unlocks from the pull of the dazzling beauty around her because she is too rooted in the reality of her situation, in which she is literally and hopelessly alone at the end of the earth.

Kartheiser is known mainly for his portrayal of greasy ad man Pete Campbell on “Mad Men,” while Thirlby has played a number of supporting parts in films from “Juno” to “The Wackness” to “Uncertainty.” Here, Kartheiser ditches the hair gel and looks far more unkempt and relaxed, but he is actually just as driven and single-minded. Thirlby, in a rare lead role, is the true revelation here, making Chloe more than just a lonely spouse and instead a character of depth. The film’s slow pacing is deliberate and at most times effective, even if the story doesn’t always feel like it has a firm direction in mind, since that seems to be the point of this journey.


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