Thawing one’s heart in a cold climate is the theme of ”The Winter Guest”, a delicate construct of linked vignettes based on a show by Scottish playwright Sharman Macdonald and directed with an actor’s fondness for stage business by ”Die Hard” villain (and ”Truly, Madly, Deeply” ghost) Alan Rickman, in his feature debut.
The action takes place in a Scottish seaside town chilled into a solid block of bleakness; in the course of a day, various twosomes come together for a bit of warmth and companionship. A couple of old women take a bus to a funeral (their favorite kind of outing). Two young boys swap dubious information about male anatomy. A pair of puppy-awkward teenagers grope their way toward sex.
In the center of these balletic encounters (choreographed stagily — sometimes preciously — but nicely lit with a steel gray wintry light), a woman nearly frozen with grief over the recent death of her husband is visited unexpectedly by her mother, a strong-willed old gal who alternately coaxes, challenges, and cajoles her middle-aged daughter into melting the shield that surrounds her emotions. For the job, Rickman has cannily rounded up real-life daughter and mother Emma Thompson and Phyllida Law (who has been in a few of her little girl’s films). Watching the two luvvies have at it, with their sharp cheekbones and their bohemians-via-Hampstead flair, you can easily imagine long, jolly chin-wags between Em and Mum, during which the two alternate cups of tea with shots of whiskey and bask in their good genes.
The Winter Guest STARRING Emma Thompson Phyllida Law RATED R 110 MINUTES