Oh deer, oh deer, oh deer, 12-year-old Florence grows up a lot on her first deer hunt – Cold November review
I grew up in Northern California where guns weren’t really known for shooting animals. Hunting seemed like a luxury that those who didn’t have to worry about guns enjoyed. I did do some fishing, so I’m not completely removed from catching my dinner, but I’ve never killed anything that you wouldn’t normally find at a supermarket. But despite the complete disconnect from deer hunting, Cold November warmed my heart.
Cold November is about a 12-year-old girl named Florence, who is going on her first deer hunt. The deer hunt is a rite-of-passage in Florence’s Matriarchal Family. The film begins pre-hunt with Florence receiving her hunting license, her gun, then some shooting lessons, and of course some stories from her family. Florence is excited and eager to partake in the family’s tradition. On the first day of the hunt, Florence doesn’t bag her buck. However, she does have a very close encounter with a doe. It seems like a sign, though she does not bag her buck on the first day. That night Florences Grandma shares stories of hunting when she was younger, and how it wasn’t a sport but a necessity to live. The rest of the film covers the rest of the hunting trip, and the troubles and obstacles Florence faces as a growing young woman on her first hunting trip.
Having pretty much no connection or experience with deer hunting, I would not normally have no interest in a movie about it. I do play the arcade game in bars and arcades, but I know the sport has a lot more goes into it than pointing and shooting. However, despite my general lack of interest in the subject matter, Cold November was a very well made and interesting film. I did enjoy it, but I will likely never watch it again. In terms of technical aspect, it is shot well and written well but doesn’t stand out in a notable way. For being focused on hunting and the outdoors, I was expecting gorgeous shots of the environment. However, it the environment ends up flying by like you’re in a carpool lane; too focused on getting to the end rather than basking in the environment.
Cold November’s story is extremely personal, so personal it is unrelatable. Being a male minority in Los Angeles, it is hard to get further away from the main character than that. But, director Karl Jacob and Bijou Abas as Florence do an excellent job carrying the film. Abas’s performance is hands down the highlight of the film, and I want to say Jacob had a part in bringing it out. The captivation of the performance is a testament to them both because the story itself is very personal and unfocused. A looming presence in the film is Florence’s cousin who passed away. She is often referenced, and Florence goes as far as having a dream/nightmare where she interacts with her. This has no impact on the film’s plot or emotional weight. The rest of the family also do little to add to the story or development. Grandma is a perfectly likable character, but Florence’s mother, aunt, and uncle don’t do much more than provide some hunting advice here and there. Otherwise, they seem far more interested in bagging their own bucks. Florence is the only character that has depth in the movie, but it doesn’t really feel like she develops or grows up. Instead, the film feels more like it captures the experience of her first hunting trip, and that’s it.
Cold November, is a well-made film that captures a maturing young girl’s first hunting trip. The star of the movie does an amazing job and provides some she to an otherwise a linear film. The film doesn’t appear to try to do more than share Florence’s story, in which it succeeds. However, it doesn’t really do anything else. Perhaps if you are a hunter, the film would be more relatable and impactful, however, I firmly believe the story is far too personal to connect with most audiences. If you are interested in hunting, and how young woman get involved and experience it, I think this film something you would enjoy. The film is shot well and Jacobs perfectly captures the experience in his portrayal. However, if you’re looking for a coming of age film, I think Cold November misses its mark. Overall, my Cold November review gets a 2.5/5.