Coffee in Winter – Review
When a young married professional quits his job to pursue a career in photography, he gradually reveals the emptiness of his relationship with his wife as he begins to deeply connect with a German student.
Manjeet S Gill
Manjeet S. Gill called his film openly as a film “inspired by the films by Hou Hsiao Hsien”. Next came the email to review the film. Thirdly, came excitement. The story follows Rod, played by Roderick Masih, who has just resigned from his corporate job to pursue his dreams of being a photographer. Both British-Indian, Rod and his wife live a peaceful yet uneventful existence in middle class England. Rod’s wife is now the sole breadwinner of the household as her husband enrolls in classes at the local university. To me, the plot, and in some way the characters, seemed very fluid – you never knew where the film was leading you, and (as in many of Hou’s films) it’s left up to you to form your own opinion about the characters. “Coffee in Winter” is a very languid, soothing film, filled with marvelous images and memorable vignettes.
In his photography class, Rod soon meets Kim, played by Kim Bormann, a sweet and young German girl studying abroad. The camera’s still disposition to scenes, urban and interior, captures a landscape of objects and places through which the trapped love of our two lead characters journey in pursuit of a way to connect. Their affections for each other play like muted horns amidst a jingle of train station announcements and contemporary piano movements, there but not together. They are like two passengers, at times on parallel trains (and this is the film’s crucial scene), traveling in the same direction but separated by the window panes (pains) through which they direct their looks in a longing to collapse the space between the tracks, able to make the journey, but not together.
The camera doesn’t move much in Coffee in Winter. The characters come off as a bit empty, but this might stem from Mr Gill’s desire to create characters who are so absorbed within the interiors of their own beings that they chose to reduce their communications with the outside world. While a decent movie, Coffee in Winter is definitely not a must see unless one is either a major fan of Hou Hsiao-hsien or maybe even Manjeet himself. Another thing to touch upon is the sequences, very often separated from each other by long fade outs, which is a sort of homage to, is superficial indeed. Ozu can make you cry. This, despite its Hou Hsiao-Hsien-like structure, leaves you feeling rather blank. Perhaps this is because it’s essentially about people avoiding real contact with each other.
Those small complaints aside, this film was very well worth my time. The style, however, is still unmistakably Hou, with its long takes, extended silences, and focus on mundane conversations. Although the initial first meeting between Rod and Kim is made apparent, they seem to be very engrossed and even more fleeting moments now conserved. The biggest compliment I can give to Manjeet is that for his next film, he need not borrow anyones style or technique as he is worthy enough for others to emulate him. The story is minimalistic, and whoever looks for action risks to be deeply bored. Slow burn is my bag though, and this comes highly recommended.
Coffee in Winter brings a lot together.
Characters can come off a bit thin at times.