"Vinterkyss" ("Kissed By Winter") is an outstanding mystery-drama that has five main themes and nails them all the power of guilt, the need to confront our demons, the universality of grieving, the danger of rushing to conclusions and the need to be forgiven. And the suspense is heightened through the frequent interspersing of past and present scenes, a la the TV series "Lost," which was released five months earlier.
Victoria Söderström (played by Annika Hallin) is a medical doctor who resides in Stockholm, Sweden with her husband, Filip (Göran Ragnerstam), and their approximately 12-year old son, Sune (Axel Zuber). Their happy and settled life is shattered one October when Sune dies suddenly and unexpectedly, having collapsed while playing hockey. The movie then moves forward two months, at which time Filip is going through the grieving process but Victoria retreats to a small town in Norway.
There she works at a medical clinic alongside the cordial Wibeke (Linn Skåber) The two quickly become friends, but any illusion that Victoria can escape her sorrow is quickly shattered. While playing in the snow, two children find a dead body just off a road. The victim is identified as a 17-year old Arab boy named Darjosh Ahmad (Jade Francis Haj), who had immigrated to Norway with his parents (played by Michalis Koutsogiannakis and Mina Azarian). Their home country is never identified but Norway has a large Pakistani population.
Because Darjosh had been missing, his parents had feared the worst but still take his death very hard. The scene in which his mother weeps hysterically over his dead body is very disturbing; maybe the most realistic portrayal of extreme grief that I've ever seen.
His parents want his body to be immediately released for burial, in accordance with their Islamic faith. But because the circumstances of death are unclear, Victoria must first perform an autopsy, much to the parents' discomfort.
The police also investigate the death and question the town's snow plow driver, Kai (Kristoffer Joner), who they suspect killed Darjosh in a hit-and-run accident. Kai is a patient of Victoria's and visits her in the hope that she will help exonerate him. Shortly afterward, the two begin a romantic and sexual relationship. To Victoria, the relationship seems to be another attempt to escape her trauma. But Kai, though clearly having a potential ulterior motive, seems to be a nice person and sincerely like her. He also seems to be a good father to his approximately eight-year old daughter, Maja, (Klara Døving), who resides in Oslo, presumably with her mother.
During the course of the autopsy, Victoria conducts her own investigation, to the anger of no-nonsense police officer Stein (Fridtjov Såheim). She learns that Darjosh had a contentious relationship with his father, who was unhappy that Darjosh was trying to repair his relationship his ex-girlfriend, who still resided in their home country and was now engaged to another man. That leads Victoria to conclude that Darjosh committed suicide, which his parents desperately don't want to believe, as suicide is a grave sin in their religion.
And Victoria's suggestion that the suicide might have been provoked by Darjosh's father results in him becoming very hostile toward her. But despite their cultural and religious differences, Victoria and Darjosh's mother become somewhat friendly with each other through their common grief. But it's soon revealed that Victoria hasn't learned from a fatal error of her recent past.
A series of flashbacks chip away at the deaths of Sune and Darjosh and also fully explain Victoria's torment it turns out to be more than just her son's death. And in masterful fashion, the whole truth isn't known until the last scene.
"Vinterkyss" does more in its relatively short length of 80 minutes than lots of movies do in two hours or more. The first time you see it, you might be confused, as I was, but there's a method to the madness. By the end it all fits perfectly.
Many European movies are very well written, which helps make up for their usually small budgets. But the writing in this one - by Ståle Stein Berg and director Sara Johnsen, both of whom were little more than rookies at the time is brilliant even by European standards. And the production is maybe the best I've sever seen from a European movie, helped by a solid budget of about $2 million. Every frame looks pristine, bringing out to the fullest Norway's natural and architectural beauty the peacefulness of which is powerfully juxtaposed with the intense sorrow that dominates the movie. And the performances are all outstanding and very realistic.
Be forewarned that this movie that is often very sad and at several points depressing. But a few glimpses of hope shine through, especially near the end. And I've rarely seen a movie portray so many emotions and life situations so realistically, or teach so many important lessons - especially that when you can't undo the wrong you've done, the only thing to do is humbly ask for forgiveness. This is a must see for all.
The movie contains no profanity and almost no violence. It's rated R for one fairly explicit sex scene, but if you don't want to see that, simply forward to chapter nine when you get to the 39:02 mark on the DVD. The skipped 52 seconds will make the movie suitable for family viewing!