Philly Fest Report: Kissed By Winter (Vinterkyss) Review

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor

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Perhaps it is a function of the sheer number of awards Sara Johnsen's Kissed By Winter has won internationally, the weight of expectations, but I was expecting more. Despite some solid performances and strong cinematography the script ultimately lets the film down, never fully living up to its own potential.

The excellent Annika Hallin stars as Victoria, a doctor who moves to a remote small town following the death of her young son. Buried in her own grief Victoria is soon swept up in a murder mystery when the body of a young immigrant man is found embedded in a snow bank by local children. The police are eager to pin the death on reckless driving on the part of plow driver Kai but Victoria, who is quickly striking up a relationship with Kai, is convinced that there is more to it.

Hallin has justifiably received much acclaim for her work here. Her performance is the film's strongest point, a nuanced and complex portrayl of a woman on the run from grief and guilt and slowly slipping into obsession. She is a truly gifted actor, fully willing to go wherever her character demands. The problem, however, is that first time director Johnsen doesn't seem to be sure what sort of film she wants to make. Is this a character study with a bit of noir thrown into the subtext, or a noir with some human drama grace notes? Johnsen never really chooses and so both elements fail to live up to their possibilities. The human element is regularly derailed by the excursions into mystery territory and the whodunit never builds up any real suspense, the reveals coming long after things are already apparent to the audience.

Johnsen has assembled a strong cast and shot some good looking film. She obviously has skill at directing her actors and a good eye for composition. Vinterkyss has much to recommend it but it fails to live up to the expectations from all the international acclaim.

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