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Winter Passing

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

A couple months back, while we were still held fast in the grip of old man winter here in Wisconsin, I watched the appropriately titled “Winter Passing“. Released in 2005, Zooey Deschanel is Reese Holden, the daughter of two well-known author parents. Estranged from both of them, an adrift Reese decides not to go back home for the funeral after her mother commits suicide. Losing herself as well as she can in acting, drugs, emotionless sex and self-abuse, she’s taken off guard when a literary agent seeks her out to make her an offer. It seems that there’s a collection of love letters that her mother and father sent to each other over the years; if Reese can get them and hand them over for publication, there’s a considerable amount of money to be made. Torn about what decision to make, Reese finally trades New York for Michigan, and the current dysfunction she hides in for the uncertainty of seeing her father again.

I wasn’t immediately drawn to the character of Reese. While I could empathize with her to an extent, it wasn’t until further into the film that her character really unfolded for me (which may have been the intention all along). Not to subtract in any way from Deschanel’s performance, though. If it takes true skill for an actor to emit very strong emotion in a role, to play a character that’s so wounded and thoroughly shut off from her feelings that she walks through life ghostlike herself must be doubly challenging. Deschanel does a fantastic job with the latter.

Will Ferrell also has a role in the film, as the quirky Corbit. A former Christian rock band member, he now lives with Reese‘s father, along with another young woman, Shelly (played by Amelia Warner). Corbit and Shelly have formed a makeshift family with Don, helping to take care of him. In essence though, their arrangement is much more co-dependent than it first seems. I like Ferrell, I really do, but I just didn’t find myself as emotionally involved in he and Warner’s roles. Whether this was due to their screen time, performances or other factors, I’ll let future viewers of the film decide.

Of all the actors, Ed Harris’ performance as Reese’s father, Don Holden, was my favorite. He did a beautiful job playing a man broken and utterly devastated by the love of his life’s suicide, yet trying to grasp at anything he can to keep from slipping completely into despair.

Others have complained that the film wraps up too neatly at the end, and I tend to agree with them. I can set that aside though. For me, the film was much like the characters within; there were flaws, but the emotional roller coaster was worth it, making me want to hang on.