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The Winter Guest (1997)

R | | Drama | 24 December 1997 (USA)
2:26 | Trailer
A recent widow, who is determined to leave Scotland for Australia with her son, gets an unexpected visit from her aging mother.


Alan Rickman


Sharman Macdonald (screenplay), Alan Rickman (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Phyllida Law ... Elspeth
Emma Thompson ... Frances
Sheila Reid ... Lily
Sandra Voe Sandra Voe ... Chloe
Arlene Cockburn Arlene Cockburn ... Nita
Gary Hollywood Gary Hollywood ... Alex
Sean Biggerstaff ... Tom
Douglas Murphy Douglas Murphy ... Sam
Tom Watson Tom Watson ... Minister
Jan Shand Jan Shand ... Café Proprietor
Sandy Neilson Sandy Neilson ... Passer-by
Billy McElhaney ... Bus Driver
Helen Devon Helen Devon ... Woman in Tea Shop
Harry Welsh Harry Welsh ... Boy in Teashop
Christian Zanone Christian Zanone ... Young Man in Church


This movie centers on four pairs - Frances (Dame Emma Thompson) is a recent widow who wants to get away from Scotland to Australia with her teenage son Alex (Gary Hollywood) to escape her memories, arrival of her old mother Elspeth (Phyllida Law) makes her reconsider her decision. Alex approaches his first sexual experience with neighbour girl Nita (Arlene Cockburn). Chloe (Sandra Voe) and Lily (Sheila Reid) are two old women who like to attend strangers' funerals and Tom (Sean Biggerstaff) with Sam (Douglas Murphy) are two schoolboys who skip school to play on the beach and talk.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Come in from the cold. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Did You Know?


Alan Rickman's theatrical writing and directing debut. See more »


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


References Now, Voyager (1942) See more »


Cush Macree
Composed by Michael Kamen and Alan Rickman
Performed by David Harrod (piano)
See more »

User Reviews

Beautiful, restrained, realistic drama on the Scottish Coast in winter.
29 May 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Winter Guest (1997)

This has the depth and studious pace and multi-pronged construction of a good play. Which it once was. And like many plays turned to cinema, this carries along some first rate dramatic acting, namely by Emma Thompson and her real life mother, Phyllida Law, playing mother and daughter. As a small twist, the playwright, Sharman Macdonald, is mother to someone else we know, actress Keira Knightley.

The scene is a forlorn village in the dead of winter on a Scottish coast. We are shown the first turn of innocent love, a pair of boys playing with the edges of right and wrong, a pair of old woman touching on what death looks like if not felt, and the mother daughter pair who deal with a little of everything. Including photography, which serves as a classic artist's release, a way to take you out of your head and into what is out there in front of you.

Don't expect action, or even any great surprising turn of events. At first I went along with the slow, beautiful pace thinking it was all building to something. And I suppose it was, after all, but nothing that will shock you. It's better than that, and more real, and more touching. The movie and play are both quite good, lacking the finesse and originality of the most amazing works around us, drawing even from Ibsen or Chekhov in the realism and power of very ordinary people in faraway places. The acting is tremendous within the cool dry restraints of the plot, and in fact might make more the the play than is there. If you like a bit of reality without sensation, but just tenderness and meaning, this will work.

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Release Date:

24 December 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Winter Guest See more »

Filming Locations:

Elie, Fife, Scotland, UK See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$20,533, 28 December 1997

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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