Dir/scr: Richard Jobson.UK. 2005. 100mins.
Once pitched as "Solarismeets Last Year At Marienbad",A Woman in Winter is a soulful,metaphysical love story that exhibits the same virtues and shortcomings aswriter/director Richard Jobson's critically admireddebut feature 16 Years Of Alcohol.
Jobson's third feature also makes the most of its modestbudget, adopting a radical, digital aesthetic that transforms the city ofEdinburgh into a twinkling, night time wonderland of romantic possibilities andintellectual ambition.
It also wears its heartfirmly on its sleeve with a story that many will find easy to dismiss aspretentious and convoluted. Its beauty and daring should attract some admirerson the festival circuit, although arthouse prospectsare slim at best and it could topple into a black hole without the backing of asympathetic, committed distributor. The film premiered at The Times London Film festival: review here is based on an earlier work-in-progress.
Very European in itsconcerns and execution, A Woman In Winter is almost as if Kieslowski had been hired to directGhost and ditched the potter's wheel,hit tune and comic relief in favour of musings on quantum cosmology, tears inthe fabric of time and the possibility of individuals living parallel lives.
Physicist Michael (Sives) certainly believes that such things are possible andhas driven himself to the point of a nervous breakdowntrying to prove them. When he spots Caroline (Gayet),his life experiences start to prove theories that only previously existed inbooks.
As the couple grow closer,Michael reveals all his thoughts, hopes and dreams whilst Caroline remains amystery woman. She may be a ghost. Michael may just be living a parallel lifethat happens to intersect with the one that Caroline is leading.
Matters are furthercomplicated when Michael discovers the business card of psychiatrist Dr Hunt(Cox) who admits that he did treat a woman matching Caroline's description butmany years previously.
Drifting in and out offocus, A Woman InWinter has you deeply engrossed one minute and then lost in the woods thenext. The central romance is believable and heartfelt thanks to the screen chemistrybetween the two leads. When the film veers into the world of equations,theories and declarations about the meaning of life, it begins to lose momentumalthough there is just enough emotion in the romance that you never quite giveup on the story.
Viewing Edinburgh as boththe city of bodysnatchers Burke and Hare and the Enlightenment,Jobson makes the most of its cobbled streets,mysterious closes and striking architecture and has some appealing footagesnatched from the streets during the annual winter festivities and New Yearcelebrations.
He is a director with astrong eye for an image and a sympathetic way with actors although Jason Flemyng and Susan Lynch are rather under-employed asMichael's anxious colleagues at the city observatory.
The drawbacks remain Jobson's tendency to write deathless dialogue and allow thefilm to slacken its grip as he pursues his passion for grand ideas and sweepingromantic statements. Not for the first time, one wonders if he might stand achance of greater commercial success by applying his talents to someone else'sscreenplay.
UK Film Council