Set during the brief hours of light one day in February when the sea has frozen, The Winter Guest
is about how four pairs of people at different stages of life attempt to fill the emptiness in their hearts. While that sounds bleak--and the setting in a small town on the East coast of Scotland is certainly stark--there is considerable human warmth in Alan Rickman's directorial debut. Without a conventional story, Rickman simply cuts between four strands, spending most of the time with the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter, played by real-life parent and offspring Phyllida Law and Emma Thomson. Strong dialogue, with a dash of Samuel's Beckett's existential squabbling angst and outstanding performances make this both funny and touching. Meanwhile Thomson's teenage son begins a tentative romance with the new girl in town, two younger boys bunk off school to the icy beach and a pair of elderly ladies attends a funeral. Ultimately the ice-locked sea and Michael Kamen's crystalline piano score become additional characters, the film offering a pseudo-mysticism akin to Picnic at Hanging Rock
(1975) while echoing with the spare dramas of Krzysztof Kieslowski; especially Three Colours: White
(1994). A beautiful drama that demands attention throughout. --Gary S Dalkin
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: The lives and relationships of four couples, based around a Scottish seaside town in the icy depths of winter - Frances is a recent widow who wants to get away from Scotland to Australia with her teenage son Alex to escape her memories, arrival of her old mother Elspeth makes her reconsider her decision. Alex approaches his first sexual experience with neighbour girl Nita. Chloe and Lily are two old women who like to attend strangers' funerals and Tom with Sam are two schoolboys who skip school to play on the beach and talk.
SCREENED/AWARDED AT: British Independent Film Awards, European Film Awards, Venice Film Festival, ...The Winter Guest