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Before the Winter Chill/Avant l'hiver


Stars: Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Leila Bekhti, Richard Berry

Director: Philippe Claudel

It’s clear at the start that the fires in 60-year-old neurosurgeon Daniel Auteuil and Kristin Scott-Thomas’ marriage have largely died down, leaving the couple to enjoy semi-separate lives, she in the garden of the luxury home, he with his patients or happily on his own.

Everything changes, however, when Auteuil starts to receive red roses from an unknown admirer who, when he finally finds her, claims they are a ‘thank you’ for having operated successful on her. Except, that is, Auteuil knows that the young Moroccan woman, coolly played by Leila Bekhti, has never been a patient of his.

Nevertheless, he sets out to track her down, finds her and a relationship builds up between them, leading the storyline from marriage and betrayal to an unexpected but reasonably effective thriller film climax …

Writer-director Philippe Claudel’s third movie is a slow-paced but never boring character pieces whose characterisation and motivation turn out to be effective when he springs the change of genre at the climax of the story. Auteuil is convincing (a doctor who smokes is simply a medical student unable to break his addiction despite knowing the drawback!), Scott-Thomas is effective enough and Bekhti convinces as a sensual stalker.

Emotionally Before the Winter Chill, like its protagonists, takes its time to warm up. That said, it largely satisfies dramatically and emotionally, too.

Alan Frank

France/Luxembourg 2013. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 08 May 2014