Producers: Bradley J. Ross, Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Vincent Morano, Brendan Walsh, Jane Oster and Keri Nakamoto  Director: Brendan Walsh   Screenplay: Daley Nixon and Brendan Walsh   Cast: Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent Piazza and Benjamin Sokolow   Distributor: IFC Midnight

Grade:  C

A two-hander about a couple trapped in a car buried under a pile of snow, Brendan Walsh’s “Centigrade” is convincingly claustrophobic but overextended.  Announced upfront as being

“inspired by actual events” (writer-director Brendan Walsh has described it as fabricated from nearly a dozen such stories), the movie begins with Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) and Matt (Vincent Piazza) already entombed in the rental vehicle they’d parked during a blizzard on the side of a remote road in Norway; they were traveling on a book tour promoting Naomi’s work when the storm hit and fell asleep as the drift covered them.

They bicker about who’s responsible for their plight and what to do now—try to dig themselves out or wait for rescue.  They bundle up as best they can and calculate what food and water they have available.  They shout at a passing snowplow without effect.  Naomi happens to be pregnant and…well, you know. 

Eventually a further tragedy strikes, forcing one of them to crawl out of the embankment and trudge toward civilization.

That’s really all there is to the movie in narrative terms, and so its success depends less on plot than execution.  The performances are sound if not exceptional, leaving one to admire Rodriguez and Piazza more for what they must have endured during filming (they had to spend hours in what amounted to a huge refrigerator) than for the quality of their acting.  The dialogue is workmanlike rather than inspired, and the level of characterization only fair.  Cinematographer  

Seamus Tierney does a reasonably good job of working within a mostly confined space though one might wish for the use of more imaginative compositions, and the score by Matthew Wang and Trey Toy generates some tension without becoming too intrusive.   Lauren Crawford’s grubby production design accentuates the sense of desperation.  The occasional exterior shots are convincingly frigid (the shoot was actually done in New York).

And yet the script lacks enough incident to sustain feature length, and Walsh’s stolid direction, combined with Bradley J. Ross’ ponderous editing, makes for a rather long haul.  When one thinks of a film like Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat,” this one’s failure to generate a gnawing sense of suspense in an enclosed space becomes all the more evident. 

In the end “Centigrade” seems an exercise in confined cinema more interesting in theory than in realization.