Writer/director Richard Jobson (The Purifiers, 16 Years Of Alcohol) is not afraid of being called pretentious. He makes low budget movies look like medium budget movies. He takes risks; he likes experimenting with photography; he’s not big on dialogue and considers confusion part of the creative process; he prefers energy and passion and snow if he can find it.

On the simplest level – there are many layers of uncertainty – A Woman In Winter is a love story. Caroline (Julie Gayet) is French, despite her Home Counties name. Michael (Jamie Sives) is a Scottish physicist.

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She lost a child, she says.

“I ran. I ran away. I came here. I became a ghost.”

Here is Edinburgh and you never quite know whether she is a product of his imagination, or a beguiling stranger come to tease her. Certainly, she is beautiful.

Michael is a workaholic, who believes he has discovered a new star. He lives in an impossibly smart minimalist house in the New Town and appears to be a loner. He talks of “time lines”, as if reality is a conceit of the uninitiated. He doesn’t look, or sound, like a boffin.

The dialogue indulges romanticism and infatuation. Nothing is remotely naturalistic. Even Michael’s star looks dodgy.

“There’s no mystery. There’s just me.”

First impression is that this is the work of an art student. Second impression is the same as the first, with a note pinned to the flyleaf: DO NOT TRY TO UNDERSTAND.

If you watch the pretty pictures and make no attempt at deciphering the clues, the film has a distinct charm. Try to make head or tail of it and you may be put off arthouse movies forever.

The chemistry between Gayet and Sives is genuine and Edinburgh is filmed in the style of a European director. Not a kilt in sight, thank God. Not even a tartan tammy.

A Woman In Winter is about obsession. Occasionally, when clarity breaks through, you can feel the power of possession and how illusion fades like the mist.

“You will always be there when I need you. Always.”

Don’t bet on it.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2007
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A Woman In Winter packshot
Intense romance between a shy scientist and an ethereal French girl in Edinburgh.
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Director: Richard Jobson

Writer: Richard Jobson

Starring: Julie Gayet, Jamie Sives, Brian Cox, Jason Flemyng, Natasha Watson

Year: 2005

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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