DVD Avant l’hiver

DVD Avant l’hiver
DVD Avant l’hiver
Run time: 103 min
Rating: 6.3
Genres: Drama
Director: Philippe Claudel
Writers: Philippe Claudel
Stars: Daniel Auteuil, Kristin Scott Thomas, Leïla Bekhti
Lucie presumes that her husband Paul – an older neurosurgeon – has an affair. Indeed, Paul behaves strange lately, but the truth behind it is dark and complicated.
Country: France, Luxembourg
Release Date: 30 May 2014 (UK)


  1. Novelist turned film-maker Philippe Claudel is covering all bases with Avant l'Hiver (Before the Winter Chill). His third outing as a director is part psychological thriller, part classic love triangle and part domestic drama with Daniel Auteuil once again showing masterly control over a storyline that crawls along at a snail's pace leaving plenty of room for angst ridden introspection and moody silences.

    Auteuil is Paul, a 60-something successful neurosurgeon who is married to Lucie (Kristen Scott- Thomas) and BFF with Gerard (Richard Berry). The couple have been married for thirty years and if the union lacks a certain spark, they are happy enough entertaining friends, spending evenings at the opera and weekends with the family. The routine is shattered when Paul starts to receive bouquets of red roses from a mysterious admirer. Suspicion falls on a beautiful, young Moroccan woman Lou (Leila Bekhti), a waitress in a cafe who claims she is one of his former patients. Initially unconcerned by the unwanted attention, Paul gradually becomes intrigued by Lou who reels him in with tales of her difficult childhood and her struggles as an art student in France. Before long, he has left the comfortable family home to spend more time with Lou. Seeing a rift in the marriage, Gerard confesses his love for Lucie who is reeling from the shock of discovering her husband's interest in another woman and the disintegration of her safe, middle class existence. But worse is to come as it becomes apparent Lou is not the woman she says she is.

    Putting the French middle class under the microscope is a path well-trodden by, among others, veteran director Claude Sautet – the man behind such classics as Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud and the not dissimilarly titled Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart in Winter) also starring Daniel Auteuil. But where Sautet cast a non-too critical eye over the lives and loves of the bourgeoisie, Claudel depicts a group of people irritatingly smug in their selfish acceptance of the privilege that comes with their money and status. As Gerard bitterly points out to Paul, his only real problem is that life has been too good to him. He has a beautiful wife, a beautiful home and a career where he is admired and respected – an enviable position for most people in the 'autumn' of their existence . And yet he questions whether his life could have been different/ improved. Lucie is a similarly cold, unsympathetic character. Despite a faultless performance by Scott-Thomas, it's impossible to warm to someone who complains her days are long and empty as if the blame lies with someone else. For Paul, Gerard and Lucie, their lives have been about choices and their constant navel gazing seems almost comically self-indulgent. It falls to Bekhti to inject some relief from the suffocating, tangled relationships between the three main protagonists. Unfortunately her character is not consistent enough to offer a fresh perspective on the unfolding drama and she fails to make a real impression.

  2. "Avant L'Hiver" (2013 release from France; 105 min.) brings the story of a married couple, Paul and Lucie (played by Daniel Auteuil and Kristen Scott Thomas, respectively). As the movie opens, we get to know Paul as a successful neurosurgeon who spends too much time focusing on his job and not enough time on his wife. Then one day Paul runs into Lou, a bartender whom he had treated once when she was a young child. It is not long before it becomes clear that Lou (played by Leïla Bekhti) has a strong interest in Paul. Will Paul reciprocate? Meanwhile Lucie needs to deal with her unstable sister Mathilde, and Paul's business partner in his private practice, Gerard, seems to have an unusual interest in Pau's wife Lucie. To tell you more of this plot-heavy movie would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

    Couple of comments: this is a fairly straight-forward relationship drama, focusing on whether the marriage of Paul and Lucie can survive all of the commotions. Contrary to another reviewer here, I did not experience this movie as a "thriller", slow-burning or not… That aside, I absolutely enjoyed the acting performance of Daniel Auteuil from start to finish. He has a natural ability for these types of roles.

    I saw this movie during a recent family visit to Belgium, where it had just opened. The screening I saw this at, a week day matinée, was reasonably well attended. No idea if this movie will ever get a release in the US, be it in theatres or on DVD/Blu-ray, but if you have a chance to see this, I would readily recommend this movie to you.

  3. That's exactly what I waited for. Daniel Auteuil is here as excellent as ever. I have always considered him as one of the best french actors ever. The poignant and sensitive tale of a wealthy surgeon who has a boring life, boring wife and family, a job that brings him to burn out and whose fate leads him to meet a young woman.

    The following is totally unforeseeable. The relationship that develops between the two of them is not what you might expect. It is so odd that it is impossible to describe. Offbeat at the most, but so pure and beautiful. This is not a romance. Unfortunately, the – near – ending is very abrupt and may disturb the audiences. But it doesn't destroy the story's quality.

    It is only unusual, far from you may have waited for in such kind of stories.

  4. Philippe Claudel made a stunning debut with his first feature-length film I've Loved You So Long and has retained some of the elements – not least Kristin Scott Thomas in Before The Winter Chill. In the former movie Scott Thomas played a doctor who'd been struck off the register after the mercy killing of her terminally ill small son; this time around she is the wife of a neuro-surgeon Daniel Auteuil and both are best friends with psychiatrist Richard Berry. Auteuil has contrived to postpone his mid- life crisis until well into his sixties and it takes the shape of a young waitress/whore,Lou, some forty years his junior. This is, of course, plot enough for films set in the world of today but Claudel thickens the broth by straying into David Mamet territory and investing Lou with a mysterious and sinister extra layer or two. All three principals turn in excellent performances and if it fails to eclipse or even equal I've Loved You So Long it comes pretty close.

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