In the review for Sara Johnsen’s understated and intelligently realized debut feature Kissed by Winter, Mode Steinkjer writes, “The last part of the film’s key moments are accompanied by Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah sung by Jeff Buckley in his version that is both beautiful and atmospheric. For me the song works to elevate the drama because the connection is unconsciously linked to Buckey’s own fate”. This insightful association does, indeed, reside at the core of the film, as the emotional trajectories of three families converge within the arc of an unexpected – though perhaps, not entirely unforeseen – tragedy and its ensuing repercussions in a small, provincial town in Norway: a country doctor, Victoria (Anika Hallin), who recently separated from her husband (Göran Ragnerstam) and the painful memories of her life in Oslo in order to start over, a snow plough driver, Kaj (Kristoffer Joner) who painstakingly built a dream home for his wife only to be abandoned by her, and a stern and devout Iranian immigrant couple, (Michalis Koutsogiannakis and Mina Azarian) whose troubled, missing son Darjosh (Jade Francis Haj) was found dead on the side of a snow embankment without shoes and curiously marked by a series of puncture wounds on the soles of his feet. Unfolding as a seeming whodunit mystery, the film is, instead, a muted, yet incisive portrait of the underlying grief, guilt, pain, and internalized, misdirected trauma felt by the characters as they struggle to come to terms with their own insensitivity (or more appropriately, obliviousness) and sense of moral culpability in the tragedy of a young man’s death. Filmmaker Johnsen demonstrates a natural ability to convey the gentle humor of, and quiet affection for, her endearing, but emotionally isolated characters, a compassion that is exquisitely captured in the remarkably rendered performance by Swedish actress Anika Hallin (who remarked during the Q&A that her acting career had, up to this point, been mostly playing the role of law enforcement officials in crime dramas).
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