The Winter Guest, Alan Rickman

Four stories told alongside, loosely connected. At first it feels like theatre brought to the screen, but soon it’s more than that.

I saw this film when it went out, at the time when I was in cinemas often; that was before “home cinema” was even a word, mind you. We would still go a lot, to discover new films, new directors, to experience emotions. We’ve lost a bit of that, at least I have. I only go to cinemas these days for “popcorn movies”, as they say, with the kids. It’s become expensive, the old man in me says.

Old. One of the themes of this film, old. Elspeth says that she’s “still 17 inside”. Aren’t we all.

So. I put the DVD in the player, thinking its slow tempo would be ideal for a weekend nap. But wow, I had forgotten how beautiful this film is. The construction of the images is so very photographic. I can’t believe I missed it the first time. I must have been concentrated on the actors and the text, on the subtleties of people dealing with life, either discovering it at one end or coming to its other end, savouring every day because you remember your youth that went away too fast, you remember the touch of love, the sweet taste of pastry, the warmth.

Only recently did I realise that the director was the same Alan Rickman who played all those wonderful villains in American films. This incredible voice, this very clear diction; but he was also the husband in Love actually who cheats on his wife because this could be the last time someone finds him attractive, the awkward lover in Sense and sensibility, and of course the voice of Marvin the paranoid android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. All this and more – and he ends up being this intimate director, with an eye for photographic composition.

I’m struck by this film, that I remembered as quite sad, but actually it’s not. It’s got to do with nostalgia but also with life that comes and goes, with the age-old idea of grabbing life every day, enjoying it while it lasts – with looking around and seeing the beauty of it all.

Bonus point for the interaction between mother and daughter, who were also mother and daughter in real life. This helps, I’m sure, to convey the intimate love-hate relationship of the characters.

Oh, and I did pause the film and take a nap at one point, come to think of it. You only live once.


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