After Fall, Winter (2012)
Director: Eric Schaeffer
Cast: Eric Schaeffer, Lizzie Brochere, Marie Luneau
Synopsis: WINTER is a dangerous, sexy, poignant and at times darkly funny story about two people who desperately want intimacy but have fashioned lives of reclusivity and emotional fracture which ultimately spells the doom of their great love.
Michael (Eric Schaeffer) is a once-successful novelist whose last two novels have failed to sell. When his latest manuscript looks as if it will struggle to even find a publisher, the debt-ridden author flees to Paris at the invitation of a friend. Shortly after arriving he sees a beautiful young girl, Sophie (Lizzie Brochere) and, after a few knockbacks, begins a relationship with her. Sophie has a day job as a companion for the terminally ill, but moonlights at night as a dominatrix, while Michael’s low self-esteem and insecurities manifest themselves in a fetish for sexual masochism. You’d think, therefore, that these two damaged souls were meant for one another, but each chooses to hide their secret life from the other.
First of all, it’s difficult to feel anything for Sophie and Michael simply because they are, at heart, such wretched individuals. She’s prone to annoying mood swings, while he is so wrapped up in himself and apparently incapable of any kind of positive action that listening to him drone on about his philosophy on life is infuriating. A couple of hours with such a self-absorbed wet rag would have anyone more than willing to help him assuage his inner conflicts by smashing him around the face with a brick. Schaeffer, who also wrote, produced and directed After Fall, Winter (the second, after Fall (1997), in a proposed quartet of movies set fifteen years apart) effectively reverses the roles of these two, so that Sophie has the typically male characteristics of emotional detachment when it comes to sex and love, while Michael is the one who’s always wanting to examine his feelings. It’s an intriguing conceit, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
After Fall, Winter has all the hallmarks of a vanity project for Schaeffer, but it’s Brochere who steals the show, and provides one of the movie’s few positives. She has a sweet but melancholic beauty about her, a fragility in her features that is touched by the hardships of life. Hers is one of those faces you could gaze upon for hours without growing bored. She’s also a fine actress, and hauls the character of Sophie from the prosaicness of Schaffer’s writing into someone both beguiling and infuriating. Schaeffer also acts well in the lead role, but his dialogue with Sophie too often comes across as two sides of the same coin, so that their conversations feel more like monologues at times.
Having said that, After Fall, Winter is always watchable, despite a running time that is extended by an unnecessary sub-plot involving Parisian street beggars. Schaeffer certainly knows how to put together a slick, professional-looking movie which belies its meagre funding, but his writing never rises above the mediocre, and the Romeo and Juliet ending really is a major mistake which practically derails the entire story.