The Australian film Closed for Winter is a reflective piece about loss, memory and letting go. Adapted from the novel by Georgia Blain and directed by James Bogle (In the Winter Dark), Closed for Winter constantly alternates between the past and the present, using crosscutting edits to smoothly make the transitions and to connect the past to the memories of the characters in the present. The scenes in the present feature singer songwriter and former Neighbours actor Natalie Imbruglia in her first major role as Elise Silverton, a woman who is still haunted by the disappearance of her sister when they were children. The scenes from the past depict Elise as a child and the events surrounding her sister’s disappearance.
It is a good thing that Elise is still haunted after all these years because all Imbruglia does in Close for Winter is look haunted. In fact all the performances are on one note only and most of the film consists of lingering stares and mournful looks. The dialogue may have worked better in the introspective novel but on film it comes across as too self-consciously deep and meaningful. Likewise, Elise’s interior thoughts when spoken aloud as a narrator sound pretentious and a bit like the pearls of wisdom you find inside fortune cookies. Elise’s boyfriend Martin (Daniel Frederiksen from Ten Empty) is meant to be an annoying, pedantic character who fails to understand Elise but his presence on screen is such a respite from all the moping that he instead comes across as inadvertently sympathetic.
Visually Closed for Winter is impressive with interesting cinematography that uses slightly unconventional framing to set the slightly off kilter mood of the film. The musical theme, atmospheric montage sequences and undercurrent of some deep, dark sexual secret evokes Twin Peaks at times but it is a comparison that does Closed for Winter no favours. It is a pity that the film didn’t focus more on the scenes in the past with Elise as a child. These scenes contain far more drama and interest than the contemporary scenes and contain a much better sense of time and place. As the young Elise, Tiahn Green does a wonderful job in her acting début. However, overall Closed for Winter never takes the audience on its intended emotional journey.