Directed by Michael Winterbottom, starring Peter Mullan, Sarah Polley, Nastassja Kinski and Wes Bentley

Inspired by the Thomas Hardy novel 'The Mayor of Casterbridge', 'The Claim' sees English director Michael Winterbottom heading West for a tale of love and betrayal after the gold rush. Mullan is Daniel Dillon, reformed boozer turned legendary prospector and latterly de facto ruler of the mountain outpost Kingdom Come. Dillon has built the town from scratch and now sees his millions multiplying when young surveyor Dalglish (Bentley) arrives on behalf of the Pacific Railroad. But his hopes for the future are soon swallowed by the demons of his past: 20 years earlier Dillon traded his wife Elena (Kinski) and daughter Hope (Polley) for the chance to mine the land around Kingdom Come, and when the two women appear in the town, he must discover whether his money can buy redemption.

Winterbottom filmed a faithful adaptation of Hardy's 'Jude The Obscure' in 1996, but here he is buoyed by a frontier spirit, reworking both Hardy and the western genre into a sleet and sawdust fable. Shot in the wilds of Canada, the film looks like a snow globe, the rights and wrongs of the characters' lives blurred against the dreaminess of the landscape and Alvin Kuchlar's startling cinematography. With each actor looking suitably dishevelled, the pace builds like a trudge across the desolate town. Winterbottom is in no rush to get anywhere with the result that the film has an unfussy, naturalistic feel, Mullan hypnotic as the taciturn rich man, who having left his soul in a log cabin 20 years beforehand, must mine other people's in a bid to get it back.

If the film has a failing it's an over abundance of subplots which tend to deprive the audience of more scenes between Mullan, Kinski and Polley. But even that complaint is balanced out by an ending as unexpected as it is tragic. Broody and beautiful, 'The Claim' is guaranteed to give you the chills.

Harry Guerin