Based on the 1998 novel by Georgia Blain, Closed for Winter evokes a bleak and miserable existence for its main characters to endure, while attempting to allow a moment of hope to break through but only partially succeeding at both.
Natalie Imbruglia is Elise Silverton, a young woman still trying to sort out her feelings for her boss (Daniel Frederiksen as Martin) while haunted by events twenty years earlier. A family tragedy has left her mother a shell of a woman and Elise seems unable to let go of the past and embrace a future she claims to desire. Her reconnection with an old family friend may bring difficult feelings to the surface and help Elise resolve her continuing internal conflict.
Directed by James Bogle, Closed for Winter is a sparse film that strives so hard to be understated that it may prove elusive to its audience. Bogle seems to have been determined to capture a sense of his characters’ disconnection from the world around them, and to have encouraged his performers to deliver subtle turns that won’t break the ambience. This has the desired effect – the film is full of pregnant moments in which much is left unsaid – although this often leaves the viewer unengaged in a way that makes true appreciation of Closed for Winter a difficult task.
Bogle has selected a windswept beach and jetty as a recurring motif, and this accentuates his picture of a young woman troubled by not knowing. The sand and water will bring forth personal memories in the viewer of happy times (conflicting with the turmoil seen by this particular beach in this particular story), while the Adelaide suburbs are strikingly familiar to an Australian audience, all of which will allow local filmgoers to appreciate this depiction right down into the subconcious.
Imbruglia and her youthful costar Tiahn Green share much of the heavy lifting, and both manage to appear appropriately haunted. Green is strikingly similar to Imbruglia in appearance, which certainly helps to maintain the illusion during the frequent flash-backs and -forwards that Bogle probably relies on a little too much. Deborah Kennedy and Tony Martin lend a degree of experience to an otherwise youthful cast, and both make their mark in particular sequences. Fredriksen is allowed the most life of any major character, and seems to revel in the opportunity to steal scenes with boisterous and overly charming behaviour.
While lacking any glaring faults and certainly succeeding in many of its aims, Closed for Winter remains relatively hard to appreciate, perhaps due to the sparseness and detachment that Bogle appears to have worked so hard to engender. Closed for Winter isn’t entirely inaccessible, but seems to be trying to be, and is likely to join many of its local brethren in a short cinema run to small audiences. This is a shame as the film is a solid (if not spectacular) local release and deserving of support.Rating: