The Cold Lands

An 11-year-old boy in the Catskills (Silas Yelich) lives companionably with his warm, benign single mother (Lili Taylor), but after she dies of some mysterious ailment, he runs away from home, eventually hooking up with a shaggy pothead (Peter Scanavino) who lives in his car, sells handmade Indian jewelry, and may or may not be a friend. Writer-director Tom Gilroy has worked with Yelich previously and makes his youthful character the quiet, watchful center of this 2013 indie drama; though the tone is mainly peaceful and bucolic, the violent contrast between the devoted, responsible woman who raised him and the aimless, unemployable man who takes him under his wing provides more than enough tension to carry the story. Learning to make jewelry, the boy innocently observes, “If I get good at it, then I don’t need to have a job and I can be free like you.” His words are a startling reminder that he’s still just a child, with a lifetime of good or bad decisions ahead of him.