Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Can’t get over her.

            Charles (John Heard) meets Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) at his job and immediately becomes smitten.  She is married and upfront about it, but since it is not going well she decides to go out with him. They soon move-in together, but it only lasts for a couple of months before Laura goes back to her husband. This is a crushing blow to Charles who obsesses about her constantly and tries any way he can to win her back.

This is in many ways a dated movie and normally I would consider that a detriment, but here I found it to be an asset. It is refreshing and fun to see a person drink a little on the job, or playfully touch a female co-worker as he walks past them and not have it become an immediate sexual harassment lawsuit. There is also the part where Laura invites Charles back to her home after only their first date, which could be considered reckless, but it’s nice to go back to an era that was more trusting and not everyone was labeled a potential psycho until proven otherwise.

There is of course the subject of stalking which is what Charles does, but here it is natural and actually kind of sweet. Some of it may be considered a little ‘creepy’, or even pathetic, but none of it is menacing, or done with criminal intent. To me this makes more sense and is more realistic to expect that when someone has strong feelings for someone else and spent special times with them that they would have trouble ‘moving-on’ when the other person breaks it off and their inability to do so shouldn’t necessarily make them ‘crazy’, or ‘maladjusted’ and this film very effectively shows that.

This is a terrific movie about relationships. The characters are real and relatable. The situations they go through are universal and the best thing is that it stays that way until the bitter end without pulling any punches. Anyone who has gone through difficult relationships will appreciate the honesty and it’s a real shame they don’t make movies like this anymore.

Heard is excellent and plays an extension of the same 60’s radical character begrudgingly moving into adult life that he did in Between the Lines, which was his first collaboration with writer-director Joan Micklin Silver. A young Peter Reigert is appealing as Charles’s roommate Sam. Kenneth McMillan, a looks- challenged character actor who usually plays slimy people, is surprisingly likable as Charles’s stepdad. Legendary screen actress Gloria Grahame, in one of her last roles, is highly amusing as Charles’s crazy mother. I was never quite sure what any of her scenes had to do with the main story, but her presence was fun anyways.

The film also contains some offbeat scenes and an original sense of humor. This includes the scene where Charles makes a miniaturized replica model of the home that Laura lives in and then uses dolls to play the parts of Laura and her husband and child. There is also the part where Charles meets Laura’s husband under the guise of being a home buyer and then stands up in front of him and states his undying love for his wife as well as a goofy conversation that he has with a wacky elderly lady roommate when he visits his mother in the hospital. The best though is the running conversation that Charles has each day with the blind cashier at a candy counter that gets better and better as the movie progresses.

The film nicely captures the wintry Utah landscape and although the original title for the film was Head over Heels this other title works much better and not only fits the season in which the story takes place, but also the ever difficult and complicated dating scene as well.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Alternate Title: Head over Heels

Released: October 19, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG: (Brief Nudity, Adult Theme)

Director: Joan Micklen Silver

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, Netflix Streaming

4 responses to “Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979)

  1. Pingback: Between the Line (1977) | Scopophilia

  2. Really nice review! You hit on many of the key points of what make this such a rewarding little movie. It’s always been a favorite of mine because of the “warts and all” approach. Both Charles and Laura do things that might be perceived as malicious or shady. The thing to understand is that they mean no harm by their actions, they just don’t know what else to do. And my favorite line is: “How can I get her Janis if she won’t come out of her A-Frame?”

    • I’m glad to hear that this movie has some fans. I consider this a real sleeper that deserves way more attention. It is as relevant today as it ever ones back then and one of the best movies about the difficult world of relationships that I have seen. Thanks for your input.

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