CLOSED FOR WINTER
As Elise (Natalie Imbruglia) attempts to piece together the mystery of her sister's disappearance at the beach 20 year earlier when they were both children, she comes face to face with dark family secrets. But as the past is revealed to her, she finds the courage to live on.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's about then and now. And about how to cope with now since then. If that sounds ethereal, it is because that's how watching James Bogle's follow up feature to his 1998 In The Winter Dark feels. Closed for Winter is a reflective ode. The mood of Bogle's adaptation of Georgia Blain's novel is as melancholy as the subject matter, as Natalie Imbruglia's Elise wanders from the present into the past as she tries to come to terms with her sister's disappearance 20 years earlier. The camera loves Imbruglia and her beautiful features are captured by Kim Batterham's cinematography, but the story stumbles and crumbles, and what should be an emotional experience, is terminally dull.
Bogle does effectively capture a sense of place and the beach suburb where the summer routine of the daily trek to the beach, across the sand dunes overlooking the jetty is nicely realised. However, Bogle uses narration to excess, and the awkward pauses between the various characters add nothing to the narrative. Nor is there anything to make us care about the characters or their plight. The relationships are brittle. Firstly, there's the awkward relationship between Elise and her lover Martin (unconvincingly played by Daniel Frederiksen). When Elise's friend Jocelyn (Sophie Ross) comments 'What for the life of me do you see in him?' she almost took the words straight out of my mouth. Deborah Kennedy has little to work with as Elise's emotionally-numb and newspaper obsessed mother Dorothy, while Tony Martin's sympathetic local doctor, John Mills, does the best he can with the material.
The film trips itself up by constantly flipping backwards and forwards from the present into the past, when we meet Elise as a 10 year old, spending her days at the beach with Frances (Danielle Catanzariti), the older sister she idolises. The revelations about the past are poorly handled and by the time the resolutions fall into place, my dissatisfaction was complete. Emotionally, I was untouched, and the music seemed to close my heart even further.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Adapting a novel that's so internal and so diffused is a challenge that the filmmakers here have not been able to meet. Lacking dramatic tension, the screenplay is unable to fashion a story out of the ingredients and writer/director James Bogle doesn't pull a cinematic rabbit out of the hat to make it work as a movie. The elastic mood of poetic nostalgia simply doesn't translate into contempo cinema, and the repetition of the single theme - sister's missing, what happened - is not enough to energise our emotions.
Natalie Imbruglia seems quite capable of creating a credible and interesting screen character, but she's defeated by the material and the direction. Even stalwarts like Deborah Kennedy and Tony Martin are left fighting for air in a screenplay that struggles to convey anything of genuine interest. The moody, languid pace contributes to a sense of ennui, not helped by the score's capitulation to the maudlin mood.
Kim Batterham's cinematography is excellent, but it serves little purpose as the structure and editing constantly undermine our interest and understanding. There is little cohesion and few reasons for audiences to embrace this work - I don't quite know who those audiences are, either.
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NATALIE IMBRUGLIA INTERVIEW
CLOSED FOR WINTER (M)
CAST: Natalie Imbruglia, Daniel Frederiksen, Deborah Kennedy, Danielle Catanzarati, Tiahn Green, Tony Martin, Sophie Ross, Adam Morgan, Kaliopi Eleni
PRODUCER: Ben Grant
DIRECTOR: James Bogle
SCRIPT: James Bogle (novel by Georgia Blain)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kim Batterham
EDITOR: Denise Haratzis
MUSIC: Daniel Denholm
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rita Zanchetta
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Goalpost Pictures Australia
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 2009