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The Winter Guest (1997)

R  |   |  Drama  |  24 December 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,773 users  
Reviews: 49 user | 33 critic

A recent widow who is determined to leave Scotland for Australia with her son gets an unexpected visit from her aging mother.



(translation and adaptation), (play), 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
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Arlene Cockburn ...
Gary Hollywood ...
Douglas Murphy ...
Tom Watson ...
Jan Shand ...
Café Proprietor
Sandy Neilson ...
Billy McElhaney ...
Bus Driver
Helen Devon ...
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Harry Welsh ...
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Christian Zanone ...
Young Man in Church


The film centers on four pairs - Frances is a recent widow who wants to get away from Scotland to Australia with her teenage son Alex to escape her memories, arrival of her old mother Elspeth makes her reconsider her decision. Alex approaches his first sexual experience with neighbour girl Nita. Chloe and Lily are two old women who like to attend strangers' funerals and Tom with Sam are two schoolboys who skip school to play on the beach and talk. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


No matter where you hide life will always find you See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and brief sensuality | See all certifications »





Release Date:

24 December 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'invitée de l'hiver  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$21,305 (USA) (26 December 1997)


$776,332 (USA) (27 March 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Emma Thompson and Phillipa Law are real-life mother and daughter. See more »


[first lines]
Alex: Are you all right?
Frances: Don't keep asking.
See more »


References Now, Voyager (1942) See more »


Take Me With You
Sung by Elizabeth Fraser
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User Reviews

To accept your own, personal winter guest
12 August 2006 | by (Lithuania) – See all my reviews

Don't know about you, but i just loved the movie. It was very interesting to discover Alan Rickman as a Director - and i wasn't disappointed with the result in any way. First, the 'structure' of the movie: tiny episodes from every plot line, their gentle crossing with each other. Then, these plot lines themselves - i found them pictured with more subtlety and tenderness than i had believed possible.

What struck me most was the teenage boys' behaviour. Or, to be more precise, the abrupt change in both of them - from cigarettes, swearing, and all this genitals-related speech to the sudden gentle manner when they find and adopt baby kittens. Is it how we grow up? Does it only take a helpless creature, who has nothing and no-one to depend on, to step towards maturity? Frances' (Emma Thompson) drama about her lost husband expresses silent grief, which is more felt than seen from her performance. Her mother Elspeth (Phyllida Law), adds even more emotion to it. While usual movies concentrate on showing the 'action', here the very sight of Elspeth's slow journey towards her daughter's house speaks volumes. What can we learn from her? That old age cannot be fought? Or, that the journey to another soul is long and winding? or both?..

The other two plot lines are magnificent as well. I won't delve into every single moment that made me shudder, for everyone finds their own special episodes. What i can say is that the movie didn't leave any dazzling impressions. No vivid flashbacks. Only a feeling of winter silently creeping into our souls and staying there for long. Not the freezing, icy season. But the feeling of a thick blanket of snow. The thrill you get when you hear snow crackling beneath your feet. The strange yet peaceful emotion when witnessing the earth sleep.

Who is the winter guest? Alan Rickman has been asked about it in some interview. He said he didn't know it himself. It might be death, however. Who is the winter guest for every one of us? Death, which comes alien and unexpected. Winter, bringing sleep and slumber into our ordinary lives. Grief, which covers our hearts with ice. Life, which stirs beneath the layers of ice and snow. Different for each and every one. The movie is leaving much space to insert your own emotions and feelings. To accept your own, personal winter guest. I have learned to accept mine.

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