Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
Leonie Forbes in a scene from ‘A Winter Tale’. – Contributed
A Winter Tale, set in the biting cold of Canada, is about a certain manly chill. A certain black manly chill.
It is not the chill of young adult ‘DX’ (Michael Miller), a pretty ‘fly’ young man who struggles with the choices he has to make between lucrative drugs and a sense of ‘nobodiness’. It is not the chill of a mid-30s looking ‘Lloyd’ (RO Glasgow), a drug dealer whose snappy dressing is pretty cool. And it is not the chill of an older ‘Professa’ (Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall), who lets witty comments fly off the cuff.
It is the chilling silence of black men, migrants all in a strange and not so strange land (depending on when they got there), about the pervasive violence that thins their ranks and sets an unspoken limit on their life expectancy.
A Winter Tale, directed by Frances-Anne Solomon, revolves around the efforts of ‘Gene’ (Peter Williams) to thaw this chill and let emotions, if not cascade, then at least flow, by forming a support group for men after the murder of young Andrew, Professa’s grandson. (There is a chilling scene when, after the fatal gunshots are heard, the bearer of bad news to Professa comes into the room where he is and sits without speaking, as the older man plays his banjo.)
And in this ‘thawing out’ process, filled with tensions, anguish, laughter, love and life, Solomon tells a good tale well, getting far beyond the regular interpretations of an all-too-regular situation.
Chill of a murder
Andrew’s murder affects the entire community, but in a movie which relies much more on interplay between characters to hold interest than fast-paced action and violence (when those scenes come they are relevant and not thrown in for heart-thumping effect), it is gradually revealed what the estrangement between ‘Miss G’ (Leonie Forbes) and her son, ‘Ian’ (Peter Bailey), is. It is the chill of a murder which lies between them, that of Miss G’s other son, ‘Julian’.
A Winter Tale does have its points of humour, mainly through Clip (Barrington), whose hop-along gait and mannerisms (including a tendency to smoke sideways) lend themselves to laughter. And it does have a piece of bright Jamaican fabric (the general ‘cloth’ kind) in it.
But the touch of humour is balanced well against the dominant concerns of breaking through the chill of silence (or the surface chatter, which skirts the real issues).
While A Winter Tale is concerned mostly with men, it is far from being a ‘bull session’ and the women do far much more than provide arm and eye candy. So Ian’s girlfriend, Julie (Nicole Stamp), is privy to his pain on a driving tour of the old neighbourhood, as he points out where Julian was killed. And yeah, there is a sole nude scene, shot from above, but not erotic, as Gene is held by Elaine (Valerie Buhagiar) when the stress of trying to release the emotions of reluctant men gets too much.
Who actually killed Andrew and why are revealed close to the end, as the initial empty support group meeting in a different place comes to a full, violent confessional in Miss G’s place. Close to than end, too, ‘Sam’ (Lucky Ejim), a rare African in a mostly Caribbean tale, rails in his controlled manner about the ludicrous violence, which he had sought to leave behind in his country of origin, in a rare but very effective indictment on the source of the ‘chill’.
A Winter Tale goes into general release islandwide today.