THE WINTER GUEST (1997)
||Phyllida Law, Emma Thompson, Gary
Hollywood, Arlene Cockburn, Sheila Reid, Sandra Voe, Douglas
Murphy, Sean Biggerstaff
||Ken Lipper, Edward R. Pressman,
||Sharman Macdonald and Alan Rickman
|Approximate Running Time:
||Some swearing, nudity, adult themes
The Plot: A frigid, wind blows through a remote Scottish
fishing village on the borders of a frozen sea. But the lives
of eight of its inhabitants are warm and a stark contrast to the
desolate backdrop. A feisty mother and daughter set off for a
walk in the harsh conditions, a teenage boy allows himself to
be led by a strange new girl, two boys play truant on the beach,
and two old ladies spontaneously jump on a bus to attend the funeral
of someone they once knew. Throughout the film, the characters
flirt with taboos imposed upon them by society and themselves.
As the day progresses, they all struggle with their inner demons,
seeking a release in from the daily black and white existence
Comment: This is Alan Rickman's debut as a film director,
and he has played a part in this film from its inception. The
idea first came to him 10 years ago, when he was playing Valmont
in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" on Broadway. There he spent hours
listening to co-star Lyndsay Duncan talk about the onset of Alzheimer's
in her aging mother. He put Lyndsay in touch with the playwright,
Sharman Macdonald who wrote the script for the play, The Winter
Guest. With little assistance by Rickman, they play was brought
to the big screen. In a brilliant piece of casting, Emma Thompson
is paired with her real-life mother, Phyllida Law.
If one is expecting an action-packed performance reminiscent
of Rickman in his villainous roles, they will be disappointed.
What emerges is a tender film with no real beginning or end. It
is just one day in the life of the individuals portrayed here.
The setting is cold, bleak and beautiful in a stark kind of way.
How any of the cast played roles with no gloves on, I don't know...
But, Rickman contrasts the black and white landscape with scenes
of color and warmth to reflect the prevailing emotions portrayed
by the characters.
Phyllida Law plays the feisty mother, Elspeth, of recently-widowed
daughter, Frances (Emma Thompson). Both Law and Thompson are wonderful
at portraying this relationship - being both crotchety with eachother
but displaying the undercurrent of love and respect all the time.
Law is compelling as the mother who doesn't want to give in to
her aging body, and is absolutely believable as her moods swing
from irascibility, anger, to love and friendship. Emma Thompson
is VERY different here - having cut her hair off for the role,
appears naked in a bath and convincingly delivers massive mood
swings as she deals with her characters grief.
The richness and warmth of the characters in the raw and battered
landscape will touch you heart and linger in your mind afterwards,
making up for the lack of speed with which the film unfolds.
And for the Rickman fan's out there, keep an eye out for a heavily
rugged up and out-of-focus and obscured cameo by Rickman early
on as he bumps into the two old women...