Boldly going where Sonja Henie never went before, Brit low-budgeter “Thin Ice” skates in as a thoroughly likable, but dramatically unfocused, romantic comedy of Sapphic passion on the rink. Scoring full marks for originality but somewhat less for artistic content, pic lacks the cutting edge and emotional oomph to thrill theatrically but could perform trim figures in limited distribution, given its deliberately light, crossover appeal.
The film drew some attention at its London Film Festival preem last November , and is set to go out in the U.K. April 28 as the first theatrical offering of distrib Dangerous to Know.
Central duo are Steffi (Sabra Williams) and Natalie (Charlotte Avery), amateur skaters at the same London rink. Steffi, along with journalist partner Greg (James Dreyfus), is planning an article (featuring herself) in the mainstream press about lesbians on ice at the June 1994 Gay Games. When her lover ankles a few weeks prior, Steffi plots to inveigle Natalie into her scheme.
In its first half-hour, the script clunkily goes through the motions of setting up the duo as stereotypical opposites: Steffi the black, working-class lesbian, Natalie the white, middle-class heterosexual.
Latter’s home scenes, with a domineering sister (Clare Higgins) and her porcine husband (Guy Williams), are unfunny and overplayed. Steffi’s gay lifestyle is more naturally caught.
Once the setup is out of the way, pic starts to motor along more confidently, shot and played as a light romance in which both partners just happen to be women.
This seems to be the tone for which tyro helmer Fiona Cunningham Reid is aiming throughout, and with more work on the script and a tighter dramatic focus , she might have brought it off.
Still, it’s a hard film to dislike. Longtime camerawoman Cunningham Reid has come up with a slick, smoothly assembled package on a peanuts budget. Movie is always good to look at, even when some of the dialogue creaks, and Claire Van Kampen’s chamber-music score is a valuable assist.
Williams is especially good as the upfront Steffi, and partners easily with Avery as the quieter, slightly klutzy Natalie. Their final scenes nicely recapture the undogmatic tone of the film at its best.