Before The Winter ChillThursday 08 May 2014
Director: Philippe Claudel
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Leïla Bekhti, Richard Berry, Vicky Krieps, Jérôme Varanfrain, Laure Killing,
Duration: 103 minutes
Writer director Philippe Claudel may be aiming for the unfathomable strangeness of Michael Haneke's Caché in this tale of a bourgeois French couple riven by outside forces but this refined offering ends up like an unsatisfying sliver of nouvelle cuisine
We are in the rich pastures of French middle class life where we find Daniel Auteuil (the star of Caché) as Paul, a crumpled, workaholic neurosurgeon and his beautiful wife Lucie, played with customary grace by Kristin Scott Thomas who is reunited with Claudel after 2008's I've Loved You So Long.
Lucie and Paul clearly still adore each other and they live in some comfort in a modernist house set on the edge of a forest outside Paris. She stays at home assiduously tending their expansive garden; he does the same for the grey matter of his adoring patients, a metaphor which is thankfully never over indulged.
One day, bouquets of red roses start arriving at their urban sanctuary and at Paul's practice in the city. Could they be from Lou, a beautiful young barmaid Paul has encountered working at a local café and whom he operated on when she was a child?
The eminent doctor is initially aghast at the attention from his admirer and the constant showers of bouquets (petal attraction, anyone?) become mental brickbats but when he begins to divine something more in Lou, the stalked eventually becomes the stalker.
Leïla Bekhti gives a sombre performance as the enigmatic barmaid and her relationship with Paul is understated and fragile. Auteuil is superb as the respected man of society flirting with crazy danger and Scott Thomas plays the saintly but sorrowful Lucie with great stillness and elegance.
Before The Winter Chill is certainly well made, achingly beautiful to look at and seamlessly well-acted but ultimately, Claudel's film becomes too much like an indifferent Gallic shrug.