When romance is brought to the silver screen, far too often it becomes ensnared in the pitfall of appearing like a thoughtless carbon copy of every other romcom which preceded it. Thankfully, J. Wilder Konschak and Stirling McLaughlin (directing Konschak’s script) appear to have found a way of making the story of a young couple feel both sincere and imaginative. Impossibly balanced between endearing and horrifying, Cold War takes an honest and lively snapshot of universal turmoil through the lens of threatened love.
Deep in the throes of fairy-tale bliss, the next logical step for Jon (Michael Blaiklock, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23) and Maggie (Madeline Walter, Comedy Bang! Bang!) is to move in together. However, before they’ve even made a dent in their unpacking, they each come down with the dreaded “raccoon flu,” a hyperrealist nightmare of an illness which leaves them both incapacitated. As they battle both their blistering fevers and their growing animosity toward one another, Jon and Maggie see if their love can outlast cold and flu season.
“…Jon and Maggie see if their love can outlast cold and flu season.”
While at its core the film is a comedy – and often an adept one – Cold War is often too close for comfort when it comes to the trials of a newly cohabitating couple. For nearly any relationship, moving in together unleashes a whole heap of problems young lovebirds couldn’t possibly foresee, as petty annoyances are elevated when they become increasingly inescapable. For Jon and Maggie, a quick moment of bed-etiquette disconnect can contort their entire perspective on their lives together. The film skillfully captures this transition, as well as the ephemeral dynamic of a romantic partnership, namely through its witty dialogue that remains firmly grounded in reality. Jon and Maggie maintain an authentic connection, banking on their shared humor wavelength even as they are battling life-altering distress.
Konschak and McLaughlin forge a tale that is wholly original by adding illness into their already apprehensive setup. The torment of being sick is heightened to a fantastical realm, with the filmmakers continually finding levity in the absurdity. When people are under the weather, their basic perception is thrown for a loop. In the case of Maggie, food becomes a colorless mush, innocuous noises become unbearable, and fever dreams dig into the dark recesses of memory. As for the non-sick characters, they are completely indifferent to the suffering of our heroes. In fact, they are typically unaware of it altogether.
“…filmmakers continually finding levity in the absurdity.”
Cold War becomes increasingly unhinged along with its characters, often to its own success. Though it finds the comedic limits of its premise slightly before it fills its runtime, the film is a quirky yet focus glimpse that is never easy to categorize. It’s a familiar story, but a compelling one, and, what’s more, one that rarely gets its cinematic due. It proficiently chronicles the low points of a relationship, as well as the ways in which we must adapt in order to keep the ones we love.
Cold War (2018) Directed by J. Wilder Konschak, Stirling McLaughlin. Written By J. Wilder Konschak. Starring: Madeline Walter, Michael Blaiklock, Antoine McKay, Gail Rastorfer, Kenneth Yoder, and Rammel Chan.
8 out of 10