This is the stand alone best thriller I’ve seen this year so far. The world of film industry raves about the subtly and skill of French films and this is no exception. It’s the type of slow burning thriller that reminds me of Tell No One (2006), or In the House (2012). The most admirable traits are the character development and of course the dexterity of the reveal, which is left so late in the film you’re left guessing and forming your own conclusions long before the credits roll. It’s a masterful film that I’m happy to compare to the great dizzying heights of a Hitchcock thriller.
Daniel Auteuil (of Caché (2005) and Un Coeur en Hiver (1992) fame) takes the lead alongside Kristen Scott Thomas (The English Patient (1996), Gosford Park (2001)). Paul (Auteuil) is a respected neurosurgeon who starts receiving bouquets of red roses to his office and home. His stay at home wife Lucie (Scott Thomas) is a passionate gardener who passes her time as agony aunt to her daughter-in-law and mentally troubled sister. While Paul works a high pressure skilled job, Lucie spends her time fixing other peoples problems and the strains of leading very different lives begin to come to the surface when the flowers appear everywhere.
It’s a masterful film that I’m happy to compare to the great dizzying heights of a Hitchcock thriller.
A random girl in a café remembers Paul, saying he operated on her when she was little for appendicitis. He doesn’t know or recognize her, but soon he starts bumping into her everywhere he goes. Suspicions run high on his mind as he thinks he’s seeing things, odd coincidences that just don’t add up. Outbursts and accusations don’t help his anxious mindset as he begins to feel like the hunted and social norms are pushed aside. Infatuated by this girl’s changing story and the diversity of her activities and interests he can’t keep away from her, pushed along by the desire for truth. This poses a completely different threat when he’s thought to be having an affair.
A genuine believability of the characters and a need to get to know them better, and understand their motives draw the viewer in and keeps you there. Mimicking Paul and Lucie’s investigative natures, the viewer undergoes the same anxious exploration. The trait of a truly great drama is having a solid portrayal of the characters emotional depth and personalities, making these people for the duration of the narrative, three dimensional interesting humans.
There’s an undercut format of unexplained connections that reminds one of Dangerous Liasons (1988). Thinking that you know the character and how they will react is diversified by friendships that form out of nothing and have spontaneous and dicey consequences. How little you actually know as the narrative advances becomes hazy and corrupted by the random events that fall into place. Mirroring the relationships on screen, the trust that we had for who we believe to understand as honest is drawn out on thin ice at certain pivotal points.
What makes this purely pleasurable is how it uses all the old school mechanisms we are very used to: presenting a unique narrative that has all the entertainment value of the classics.
The mystery girl Lou takes Paul on an investigation to reveal her true identity. Threatening, serious and powerfully exposed, what Paul guesses he’s become entwined in is nowhere near the reality he could have faced. Utterly terrifying and as dealt with in a rather clinical manner, the gravity of the situation Paul has ended up in is almost unimaginable compared to what we already though we knew.
The key theme of the mysterious stranger plays into that thrill and deadly game of cat and mouse audiences are all too aware of. What makes this purely pleasurable is how it uses all the old school mechanisms we are very used to: presenting a unique narrative that has all the entertainment value of the classics. Before the Winter Chill is spine chilling and thrilling, just brilliant.
[notification type=”star”]80/100 ~ GREAT. Before the Winter Chill is spine chilling and thrilling, just brilliant.[/notification]