Edge of Winter/Into Forest

Roads Less Traveled

by Glenn Lovell

We venture back into the woods in two new Canadian releases, but, rest assured, it’s not the dark, foreboding place of the brothers Grimm or even Sam Raimi and his “Evil Dead” spawn. Mother Nature this time out proves somewhat more forgiving, a force for second chances and potential salvation.

In “Edge of Winter,” we go off-road for a father-sons bonding session that, of course, goes awry. For “Into the Forest,” a different kind of post-apocalyptic drama, two sisters cope — very nicely, thank you very much — with the inevitable consequences of global warming, here manifested in a power-grid meltdown.

“Edge of Winter,” directed and co-written by Rob Connolly, stars the wonderfully edgy Joel Kinnaman as edgeofwinterheadera divorced, recently unemployed father who takes an ill-advised shot at parenthood when his ex asks for some me-time. Kinnaman’s Elliot Baker, it’s obvious from the get-go, has some catching up to do; he hasn’t a clue how to interact with the two strangers left at his door. The teenage boys (well-played by Tom Holland and Percy Hynes White) have no trouble seeing through his gruff exterior. Their eyes roll and they reach for a cell phone whenever the old man goes into his “This’ll make men of you” spiel.

The key here is that Elliot obviously loves the boys. Which makes the news that he may lose them permanently harder to take. Indeed, the mere mention of this possibility causes him to whimper, then begin to unravel. How far? Let’s just say you’ll be reminded of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” I certainly was.

Kinnaman’s strong suit has always been mouthy types who mean well but give in to questionable impulses. That’s why he was perfect as the recovering-junkie cop in AMC’s “The Killing” and completely miscast as the senator with designs on the White House in last season’s “House of Cards.” His Elliot is a return to form, a deeply flawed character we can’t help rooting for even as we fear the worst, that his good intentions are no match for his hidden demons.

Connolly, a cinematographer making his feature debut, does a creditable job with this material, skillfully building suspense in “Fargo”-like whiteout conditions. Unfortunately, this “little adventure,” as Elliot terms it, runs out of plot around the time the RV plows into a snow bank, and the director begins to backfill with gratuitous violence and a pair of stereotypical Canuck hunters straight out of “Dudley Do-Right.”

“Into the Forest”

There’s little chance that you’ll confuse this adaptation of the Jean Hegland novel with recent chillers about cabins in the woods. Director Patricia Rozema, best known for “Mansfield Park,” is on to something more ambitious, a near-future drama that’s at turns elegiac and into_the_forest_ver2reassuring.

Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood are excellent as very different sisters who are left to cope in the back country when global warming — and those overtaxed air conditioners — cause a massive power blackout. Page’s Nell is the tough, resourceful one; Wood’s Eva is the sensitive dreamer whose surprise decision provides this film with its ultimately uplifting denouement.

Though a little arty for my taste (I could have done without those contemporary dance exercises), the British Columbia locations are stunning and the two leads complement each other remarkably well. Page, who doesn’t mind playing petulant and unsympathetic, is especially good, adding to an already impressive body of work.

Overall, this quasi-dystopian vision is closer to “Children of Men” (in intelligence, if not mood) than that unrelievedly gloomy adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”

EDGE OF WINTER ✮✮1/2 With Joel Kinnaman, Tom Holland, Percy Hynes White. Directed by Rob Connolly; scripted by Connolly, Kyle Mann. 89 min. Rated R (for profanity, violence)

INTO THE FOREST ✮✮✮ With Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood. Directed, scripted by Patricia Rozema from the Jean Hegland novel. 101 min. Rated R (for language, nudity, rape scene)

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