Before the Winter Chill
No doubt director Philippe Claudel aimed to repeat the success of his collaboration with Kristin Scott Thomas in I’ve Loved You So Long. But Before the Winter Chill seems to fall short of that benchmark.
Described as a thriller-drama, this film is distinctively a drama but rather weak in the suspense stakes; the tension is somewhat patchy as elements of suspense are built into the narrative but seemingly abandoned as quickly as they are introduced. However, what it lacks in thriller technicality, it makes up for in its cinematography, creating a beautifully shot literary drama with outstanding performances by Daniel Auteuil as Paul, an accomplished neurosurgeon, and Scott Thomas as his wife Lucie.
Despite having a successful career, beautiful home and devoted wife, Paul is attracted to the mysterious charms of a young woman, Lou (Leila Bekhti), who is not what she appears to be. “She takes me a long way back” he says, hankering possibly to the way things were with Lucie when he was young and carefree. It is very much up to the viewer to decipher what Paul actually means by this vague but rather loaded statement.
It is a storyline that has been explored many times before, perhaps to overkill, and Claudel fails to really do anything out of the extraordinary with it. The dark twist at the end, although different, is disjointed and improbable and the narrative fails to cement the foundations to Paul’s liaison with Lou. Is it friendship, or something more? Even more puzzling is the final scene itself, but then again you may disagree.
What Claudel does do well, though, is explore with honesty and sensitivity the nuances within marriage and how, as circumstances change, dynamics can shift from being harmonious to discordant. As Paul is ordered to take some time off work, it becomes evident that there are gaps in his relationship with Lucie. And, not afraid of allowing the camera to simply settle on a close up, Claudel allows us to absorb subtle waves of emotions, which are portrayed by the actors with incredible sincerity and believability.
If only Claudel had allowed the film to concentrate on the narrative and emotions resulting from the complexities of marriage and extra-marital relationships, rather than inject a mediocre thriller theme, then he may have created something truly honest, beautiful and remarkable. It is almost as if by trying to do something different, he failed to do anything noteworthy.
Before the Winter Chill is released nationwide on 9th May 2014.
Watch the trailer for Before the Winter Chill here: