Before the Winter Chill
Facts and Figures
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 27th November 2013
Distributed by: Metrodome
Production compaines: Les films du 24, Samsa Film, France 3 Cinema, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, Canal+
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Before the Winter Chill Review
Reuniting with filmmaker Philippe Claudel (I've Loved You So Long), Kristin Scott Thomas delivers yet another brittle, understated performance as a woman who isn't always likeable but is hugely sympathetic. But even though the film is beautifully made, it's also elusive, never quite making it clear what the point is.
Scott Thomas plays Lucie, the glamorous wife of the noted Paris surgeon Paul (Daniel Auteuil). They live in a strikingly modern home in a leafy suburb, where they indulge in lavish gardening projects and spoil the adorable baby daughter of their son Victor (Jerome Varanfrain) and his wife Caroline (Vicky Krieps). After flirting with waitress Lou (Leila Bekhti), Paul starts receiving daily deliveries of roses to his home, office and hospital, which unnerves him thoroughly. He also keeps spotting Lou around town, begging her to stop sending flowers. But is it her? Of course, Lucie can see that something fishy is going on, but she has her own issues as she's constantly pursued by Paul's business partner Gerard (Richard Berry). And Victor and Caroline's marriage is just as strained.
All of these plot-threads and more swirl around to make the film darkly involving. And through it all is a current of resentment, mainly because the characters refuse to confirm their suspicions by asking someone for the truth. Auteuil and Scott Thomas can play this kind of repressed bitterness in their sleep, saying volumes with the tiniest flicker of their eyes. This adds a remarkable depth to the film's layered plotting, partly because it's clear that even they don't understand why they're reacting the way they do.
Claudel shoots everything with a strikingly observant eye, catching telling details while putting the characters into positions where they're divided by things like panes of glass, telephone wires or surgical masks. So the movie is haunting because Claudel is clearly trying to say something important, but it's not easy to figure out what that might be. Perhaps this is an exploration of how suspicion can sabotage a relationship. Or maybe it's about something else entirely.