“The Winter House,” written and directed by Keith Boynton is a film that delicately navigates the complexities of human relationships in a unique and isolated setting.
The narrative unfolds within the confines of a remote winter house, where these two characters meet by chance and find solace, share secrets, and an unexpected connection.
The film introduces us to Eileen, portrayed brilliantly by Lili Taylor who is an author grappling with the weight of her sorrow and loss. As we delve into her character, it becomes evident that she is reeling from the sudden departure of her husband of many years, who left without any explanation. This enigmatic backstory sets the tone for her character, painting her as a woman in emotional turmoil, seeking isolation in the cold, desolate landscapes of New Hampshire. We later find out more about her reason for going to the cabin.
Eileen‘s character is the emotional anchor of the film, and Taylor convincingly portrays her vulnerability and despair. Also, when the scene requires it, she shows a fierce person who won’t back down even in the face of life-threatening adversity.
On the other side of the narrative, we meet Jesse, played by François Arnaud, a character shrouded in mystery. Jesse, a recovered addict, is on the run from his menacing boss, who is willing to go to great lengths to ensure Jesse‘s silence regarding their shady past dealings. Jesse‘s decision to hide in the winter house stems from a childhood memory, a place he is familiar with and knows he can be safe at. However, he initially conceals his true identity from Eileen, fabricating a story that he is the son of the house’s owners, oblivious to its current occupancy.
The film artfully weaves together the stories of Eileen and Jesse, showcasing their gradual emotional evolution as they share the solitude of the winter house. The interaction between the two is where the film truly shines, as it delves into the complexities of human connection, transcending the boundaries of age and personal history. Despite the glaring age gap, the chemistry between Taylor and Arnaud is palpable, and the way their relationship develops feels authentic and organic.
What makes “The Winter House” particularly intriguing is the timing of pivotal moments. Just as the threat of Jesse‘s ominous pursuers looms over them, the film takes a daring turn, leading to an unexpected, passionate encounter between the two central characters. This intimate scene is not merely an attempt to add sensuality to the plot but rather serves as a powerful catalyst for their relationship. It’s in this moment of vulnerability and danger that their connection deepens, transcending the boundaries of mere physical attraction.
The remote winter house, with its chilling backdrop and cosy interiors, serves as a character in its own right. The house’s isolation mirrors the emotional isolation of the two protagonists, and its warm, inviting interiors provide a stark contrast to the harsh winter landscape outside. The cinematography in these scenes is breathtaking, capturing the essence of the character’s emotional journey.
While the film is undeniably slow-paced at times, it doesn’t allow scenes to drag on excessively. This measured approach contributes to the film’s overall atmosphere, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in the evolving relationship between Eileen and Jesse. The slow pace complements the isolation of the winter house, where time itself seems to move differently, in sync with the characters’ emotional transformation.
The film manages to maintain the audience’s attention with its compelling central characters, Eileen and Jesse. Even though it is stated that is a thriller, those elements of the plot are relegated to the back. At certain junctures in the movie, I found myself wishing that the pacing would kick into a higher gear, capitalizing on the film’s thriller elements to inject some excitement and adrenaline to the viewers. But, sadly that never happens. Even with the way the film climaxes we are spared the full details of the shady dealings of Jesse and his boss.
In the end, “The Winter House” is a well-crafted film that excels in portraying the intricate dynamics of human connection and the power of unlikely bonds. Eileen and Jesse‘s characters are brought to life by exceptional performances, and their evolving relationship in the backdrop of a remote winter house makes for a compelling narrative.
I would score this film 6.5/10. While the film’s pace might not be for everyone, it does capture the depth of human emotions and the complexities of the bond between two strangers caught in an unlikely situation.