A low-key drama about loss, regret and possible redemption that deceptively starts out like a whodunit, “Kissed by Winter” is an assured first feature by Norwegian filmmaker Sara Johnsen. Aided by a top-class performance from Swedish actress Annika Hallin, pic looks likely to secure slots at major festivals. In Scandi territories, its B.O. future looks to be solid but not outstanding.
Victoria (Hallin), a doctor, lives in Stockholm with her husband Filip (Goran Ragnerstam) and their son Sune (Axel Zuber). A workaholic, Victoria doesn’t spot the signs that her son is ill, and, when he suddenly falls down dead during a hockey match, the devastated Filip blames her. She flees to Norway, taking up a position as a doctor in a small town.
When a young boy, Darjosh (Jade Francis Haj), is found dead — killed by a snowplow that has been clearing the roads — Victoria believes there’s something mysterious about the incident. There are curious wounds on the boy’s feet, and, when the local police want to close the case, she starts to investigate.
This leads her to the boy’s parents (Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Mina Azarian), who live in a refugee hostel. Victoria learns the father has a history of maltreating his son. She also meets Kai (Kristoffer Joner), the young man driving the snowplow that fateful night.
As the drama develops, it becomes apparent there was more involved in the death of the boy than Victoria could ever have guessed, and, as a result of that case, she is able to go back to Sweden to confront Filip and her own guilt.
Looking at first like a kind of crime story, “Kissed by Winter” soon turns out to be something else. With subtle nuances, helmer-co-writer Johnsen creates an emotional web in which the twin stories of the two boys’ deaths move back and forth between each other. At the same time, she paints a sharp and convincing portrait of a woman whose life has been shaken. Hallin, a respected legit and TV actress, makes the most of every second she is on screen.
Other key contrib is lenser Odd Reinhardt Nicolaysen, who skillfully uses Scandi winterscapes to maximum visual effect, as in a memorable overhead shot of the unconscious boy’s body lying in the road as the snowplow bears down on him.