Infinite Storm

Infinite Storm

2022, R, 104 min. Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska. Starring Naomi Watts, Billy Howle, Denis O’Hare.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 25, 2022

Infinite Storm is a survival film that tells the true story of a hazardous snowstorm rescue that contains incredible images of snow-covered mountains and perilous actions, which are coupled with a more psychologically interior story about survival from grief. Plus, the need to be indomitable in the face of each type of threat.

Based on the true experience of Pam Bales, Infinite Storm stars Naomi Watts, who once again opts for the kind of survival story that requires a display of physical and emotional grit that has become the actress’ calling card (The Impossible, The Sea of Trees, Funny Games). Watts is well-suited to play Bales, the New Hampshire woman who we learn, bit by bit, is a nurse, a mother, and a search and rescue mountain guide. We observe Pam as she wakes to her predawn alarm clock, rises, and makes ready to depart her spare cabin for a day of climbing Mt. Washington, the tallest peak in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the eastern United States. The radio informs Pam and the viewers that a major storm is rolling in, and when she stops at her local cafe to fill her thermos with coffee, the proprietor also reminds her that the day is not a good one for solo climbing. In response, Pam declares, “You know what day it is,” which moves the mystery surrounding Pam front and center. A couple of close calls on her way up reveal Pam’s aptitude, knowledge, and strength as a climber. In flashbacks during her struggles we witness two young girls who are presumably her daughters. The mystery is now established, yet remains unresolved ’til the end of the film.

Part of the way up the mountain, Pam decides to turn back due to the worsening weather, but then becomes aware of other footprints in the snow. She discovers another human being perched on the edge of a cliff who is wearing shorts and sneakers, unresponsive, and suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. He does not want to be rescued, but through force of will and survival skills, Pam forces this person, whom she calls John (Howle), down the mountain. This middle part of the film chronicles their dangerous descent. Once reaching the parking lot, he dashes away in his car. Days later, he reaches out and the two meet in the area cafe. He reveals the source of his sorrow and they commiserate and find common solace. The reason for their grief is not dwelled on.

The details of the story are emotionally draining, but that sensation derives mostly from the situation rather than the characters. This is primarily an environment vs. human beings story. Directed by prominent Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska, Infinite Storm has Slovenia stand in for New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington. The imagery by cinematographer Michal Englert is stupendous, but the dialogue and plot by actor-turned-screenwriter Joshua Rollins, who also has a small role in the film, are a bit too minimal. Infinite Storm always shows the perils we face but never explains them.

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More Małgorzata Szumowska Films
The Other Lamb
Cult drama revisits, rather than revises, an old narrative

Richard Whittaker, April 10, 2020

In the Name Of

Sept. 30, 2023

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
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July 7, 2023

All That Breathes
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March 31, 2023


Infinite Storm, Małgorzata Szumowska, Naomi Watts, Billy Howle, Denis O’Hare

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