Cold November is a girl’s coming of age story with an unusual family dynamic: deer hunting. Florence (Bijou Abas) is the youngest member of a family of women who are all expert hunters.
The whole family is gathered at a cabin in the woods for deer season. The family sits around the table eating venison stew and talking about whose deer the meat came from. Florence is given her first deer rifle by her grandmother (Mary Kay Fortier-Spalding). It’s a rifle with a long family history.
Part of the family lore of deer hunting is the grandmother telling stories about how they used to hunt even when it wasn’t deer season because they were so hungry. That comes down through the years to Florence as teachings about respect for the animals and thankfulness to them for their lives and nourishment.
The family also includes mom (Anna Klemp), uncle Craig (Karl Jacob), and aunt Mia (Heidi Fellner). In addition to acting, Karl Jacob wrote and directed Cold November.
Each family member has their own blind, up in a tree, where they sit and watch for deer. The first day Florence’s mom stays with her. Grandmother gets a deer the first day. She goes back to town to help with her church. The second day Florence sees a deer but in her excitement, she almost starts her deer blind on fire. She misses her chance. That night her mom, who wears scrubs like a nurse when she leaves, is called back to work.
Florence is left to hunt with Mia and Craig on day three. Florence is alone in her blind.
Florence’s experiences show her grit and determination that day. We see her self-reliance throughout the story. As she is initiated into adulthood, she literally throws her childhood pursuits away.
Many decades ago when putting meat on the table often involved hunting, my family ate all sorts of wild meat. My father gave me a .30-30 rifle just like the once Florence used. He taught me the same lessons about using it that Florence’s family taught her. He took me deer hunting. I know that pockets of people who go out in the woods and shoot their own food still exist in this day of supermarket meat.
These are those people.
If you aren’t offended by hunting, this story will resonate with you, as it did with me.
This small budget independent film apparently was shot with a hand held camera that waved about a lot. Some of the quick swings between people and things made me a little woozy. The more distant shots were a lot steadier. The film was shot in the woods of Minnesota, in a setting that was quite lovely.
In a press release about the film, writer Karl Jacob said, “My family played a big role in making this film happen. We shot the film on family land during deer hunting season, and my parents, aunts, uncles and grandma were actually hunting while we were simultaneously shooting. I wanted the film to feel lived in and to use real animals. The scene of all of the women skinning a deer together and the one of Florence field dressing a deer are all real. These are the people who actually killed the deer themselves. Everyone in my family was very supportive and they were on hand to coach, assist, and make sure the animals were dealt with in a humane way that preserved the meat in line with family tradition. I am effectively documenting this personal ritual that is admittedly unique for most modern Americans, despite it being an ancient survival ritual. A semi-tangential fun fact is that I am actually a vegetarian, and so is Ben, the cinematographer!”
Young Bijou Abas did an admirable job as the lead of Cold November in a part that must have been difficult and somewhat gross. She has great talent and potential as an actress.
The film is available on iTunes starting May 22, 2018.