It’s worth taking a step back and appreciating the nuances behind a story in this age of blockbuster entertainment. Colewell is one such escape into a rural landscape that gives viewers a look inside the mind of an ageing woman unwilling to let time dictate the course of her life. Director Tom Quinn and lead actress Karen Allen certainly do deliver in presenting this tale of sorrow and introspection with class, but are hampered by the lack of resolution in the screenplay.
Nora, a postmaster in the small town of Colewell, is shown content in her rather mundane lifestyle of running the post office. She has few visitors, locals who enjoy hanging around her workplace, which is situated in her own house. Nora has a friendly connection in Charles, the postman who stops by each day for a few poignant conversations. Her world comes crashing down when she’s informed she either has to retire or move to a distant town far away from her current establishment, which she’s become much too fond of.
It’s here where the heart of Colewell is set, as Nora’s previously firm attitude is stripped down to show viewers the vulnerable and terrified woman underneath. Many scenes are dedicated to the cinematography showing the ins and outs that Colewell offers. It comes to Allen’s mastery in conveying emotions through her facial features alone, with the otherwise unspectacular Colewell seeming a sight to behold when seen through Nora’s eyes.
There’s more to understand than to behold in Colewell, though, as it is never made clear just what is on Nora’s mind that’s preventing her from accepting this change in her life. The film is interspersed with scenes of a young hitchhiker who has a chance meeting with Nora. Presenting a juxtaposition between the free spirited and youthful hitchhiker to the set-in-her-ways Nora, the film intends for the audience to relate to both characters’ pursuit of direction despite their contrasting personalities.
However, it’s difficult to fully sink one’s teeth in Colewell when the plot refuses to close itself up from the path it takes. While the theme of loneliness is apparent, that finality one requires from spending 79 minutes with Nora is missing. Tom Quinn deserves credit in making such a character study and drawing the full potential out of his lead actress, but there’s no escaping the fact that most viewers will walk away feeling unfulfilled.
There’s an open ended flavor the film leaves you with, one that still doesn’t give as much room for interpretation as was possible. Still, Colewell is deserves a shot since it presents such an engaging diversion into subtler storytelling. And perhaps seclusion is exactly what’s needed to understand the depth change presents to life.