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Naomi Watts plays a real-life heroic hiker in ‘Infinite Storm,’ a film set on Mount Washington

Shot in Slovenia, the film is set on Mount Washington, ‘Home of the World’s Worst Weather’

Naomi Watts in "Infinite Storm."Bleecker Street

One autumn morning in 2010, Pam Bales set off on what she thought would be a six-hour climb up Mount Washington. Meteorologically, this might not have been the best idea. “Pam, you seen the weather forecast? Don’t go up there,” a friend warns her in “Infinite Storm,” which tells Bales’s story. In addition to that forecast, note the time of year and location.

Bales was an experienced hiker. She was also a nurse and a volunteer with the local search-and-rescue team. So she could handle it. The fact that Bales is played by an actress of Naomi Watts’s caliber underscores that she could handle it. It’s a different story for the guy Bales encounters near the summit who’s wearing a pair of New Balance and has no climbing gear whatsoever.


Naomi Watts in "Infinite Storm."Bleecker Street

“Infinite Storm” takes its title from a John Muir quote, “the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” Well, not if you’re suffering from hypothermia up in the Presidentials it’s not. The movie further announces its literary bona fides by having Pam recite some lines from Edward Abbey as she climbs.

“Infinite Storm” has several things going for it. It’s fabulous to look at (Granite State boosters be warned, it was shot in Slovenia). Watts, per usual, is very good. It helps that she checks her movie-star ego at the door. Wearing no visible makeup, she delivers a forthrightly unglamorous performance. This makes it all the more effective. The director, Małgorzata Szumowska , capably handles what must have been a hellacious shoot.

What “Infinite Storm” doesn’t have going for it is something so basic that moviegoers take it for granted: an antagonist. Or rather the taken for granted is what an antagonist provides: conflict. It’s not that Pam doesn’t have a lot to contend with: the weather, the terrain, the cluelessness bordering on death wish of her fellow climber (Billy Howle). But those aren’t antagonists. They’re problems. Problems make a story more interesting. They don’t make a story a movie.


Naomi Watts in "Infinite Storm."Bleecker Street

Pam’s in the middle of a highly dramatic situation. Her survival and the other guy’s depend on each decision she makes. It’s hard to get more dramatic than that. But that’s different from being in a drama. This is one of the bigger ways that life (full of dramatic situations, if not as dramatic as Pam’s) and art (requiring drama) completely differ. Not to get all Aristotelian about it, but for a plot to be more than just a succession of incidents, it needs some kind of mindful opposition to the protagonist’s efforts. This “Infinite Storm” lacks.

The scriptwriter, Joshua Rollins, tries to compensate. Occasional readouts tracking the time of day appear in the lower-right-hand corner (an attempt to inject drama). There are flashbacks to a truly terrible event in Pam’s past.

Most of the dialogue consists of “Are you okay, bud?” or variations thereon. The absence of speech matters less than you might think, since “Infinite Storm” is far from being a silent picture. There’s the scrunch of gravel or snow underfoot, the crash of thunder, the howl of wind, the sound of tires on pavement. Add Ben Baird’s sound design to the list of things “Infinite Storm” has going for it. This is one of those rare movies that may be more effective listened to than watched, which considering the spectacular setting is really saying something.




Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska. Written by Joshua Rollins. Starring Naomi Watts, Billy Howle. At Boston theaters, Kendall Square, suburbs. 97 minutes. R (language, brief nudity)

Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.