1001 Films: The Ice Storm (1997)

“Your family is the void you emerge from, and the place you return to when you die. And that’s the paradox – the closer you’re drawn back in, the deeper into the void you go.

There are so many films that we watch are really just about family. It’s about all of those awkward pauses that you find yourself having in conversations with your family that in any other context with any other person that you don’t know so well would truly be awkward, but since it’s with your family it’s ok. The Ice Storm is a film about the family and how no matter how messed up certain things can be at any given moment somehow they all manage to work out and at the end of the night you’re no longer hating your brother or your son or your mother anymore.

While the film delves into the realm of forgiveness within the family it’s plain that we can’t get there without first wandering around the realm of mischief. So we have a husband fooling around with his good friend’s wife and neighbour, we have a daughter who’s being sexually curious with the neighbour’s sons, a wife who’s very unsure about a lot of things in her life and seems a little out of sorts and a son who’s trying his best to get the girl he has a crush on before his roommate happens to sleep with her. With this all rolling around the same household we know that we’re in for a special kind of result when everything tries it’s best to come crashing together all at once.

While we see the whole thing unravelling in a way that only can be explained by “it’s the 70s” at the same time what grabs you and keeps you with the film is how much you see each one of the members of the family wanting it to stay together. You can see Ben (Kevin Kline) and Elena (Joan Allen) struggling to want to look at each other every morning. He’s unhappy and she knows something is going on, but at the end of the day they know deep down inside that they’ll get past it and it’ll work out. At any given moment one, or the two, of them will explode but only so that they can fix it back together.

Who also plays a major part in the film are the Hood’s neighbours and good friends. The family that’s barely even seem to be working with a distant father and a couple of eccentric loner sons who just don’t seem to fit in the real world; one is obsessed with “molecules” and the other with blowing things up. The only thing the two shares in common is an odd fascination with Wendy (Christina Ricci) that slowly becomes sexual.

The film intellectualizes everything, from a discussion of the insanity of the concept of this new fad called a “key” party to the Fantastic Four and that’s what makes the family intriguing. So eventually when all of these things that they intellectualize about actual comes into being you get to watch how they react to the reality of it.

The film is just one of those films that I enjoy because it introduces me to people. As Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting, “I can’t learn anything from you that I can’t get from a fucking book… unless you choose to start talking about you,” and that’s the number one reason I love movies, because eventually we get to talking about you.

Rating: 8.5/10


  • Steven Flores

    This is still my favorite film from Ang Lee because of how he managed to re-create the idea of the 1970s and show the weirdness of growing up and dealing with all sorts of things.  My favorite scene involves Mikey (Elijah Wood) running and jumping around the snow during the ice storm that is presented in slow motion.  That scene is so beautiful to exemplify Mikey’s own weird persona.

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

    It is a great film but I dont think it’s my favourite from Lee… love Brokeback Mountain and Lust Caution (not to mention Crouching Tiger, but I think that’s a different conversation)