Near the end of Vincent Grashaw's Coldwater, the camera freezes for a moment on a bloodied manchild curled on a golden winter field in imitation of Andrew Wyeth’s famed painting Christina’s World.
That violence amid beauty is the heart of this film about brutality at a private juvenile reform facility hidden in the Colorado mountains.
At his parents’ consent, small-time drug dealer Brad (PJ Boudousqué) is hurtled into Coldwater, where a retired colonel dehumanizes teenage boys and slowly kills their souls. That’s both the power and the weakness of the film, which is essentially a darker, teenage Cool Hand Luke. The acting is top-notch, as is the cinematography (by Jayson Crothers), but Coldwater itself is missing some humanity. We seldom experience the boys being boys and bonding – no Cool Hand Luke egg-eating contests here. Instead we have violence and blood at a level that soon becomes almost pornographic. Perhaps that’s the point, but it’s hard to stomach.
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