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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'In the Winter Dark'

1 February 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Creepy and promising at first, "In the Winter Dark" is ultimately a misfire, despite rugged lead performances by the down-to-earth cast, including Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn.

The small, character-driven, but muddled Australian pyscho-thriller unspooled recently at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

Director James Bogle stresses the gloomy moods of the four leads with little subtlety, while the whole murky scenario swings on foggy details and the possible madness of one or more of the backwoods characters.

Ida (Blethyn) and Maurice (Ray Barrett) still work the family farm, but he's old and paranoid, and maybe cracking up. Their gloomy neighbor Jacob (Richard Roxburgh), helpful but gruff, is an escapee from civilization.

One night another couple in the quiet valley fights, and freaked-out Ronnie (Miranda Otto) wanders into Jacob's life. Together, they bond with Ida and Maurice, particularly when it appears a strange animal is attacking local livestock at night.

Screenwriters Bogle and Peter Rasmussen like to show dead animals and other nasty things, with Maurice emerging as a tortured soul. Someone is destined to become his victim in increasingly alcohol-soaked confrontations with an unseen menace. Savvy moviegoers may make some sense of the bummer finale, but overall it plays as indecisive and cowardly enigmatic after putting an audience through endless unpleasantnesses.

Blethyn is restrained as likable Ida, who has an emotional girls-will-be-girls evening with Ronnie. Overall, veterans Barrett and Blethyn are solid, despite the often leaden material. Otto plays the most exotic character and constantly steals the attention from lackluster Roxburgh.


Southern Star A R.B. Films production

Director: James Bogle

Producer: Rosemary Blight

Screenwriters: James Bogle, Peter Rasmussen

Director of photography: Martin McGrath

Production designer: Nicholas McCallum

Editor: Suresh Ayyar

Costume designer: Wendy Cork



Ida: Brenda Blethyn

Maurice: Ray Barrett

Ronnie: Miranda Otto

Jacob: Richard Roxburgh

Running time -- 92 minutes

No MPAA rating


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