In a matter of a few years, director Michael Winterbottom has slowly become one of the more interesting British filmmakers currently working, simply by retaining the ability to make films that are both classical and progressive in nature. This period effort set in the wintry landscapes of the Sierra Nevada region proves to be his most unique and rewarding movie yet, blessed with an undeniably precise knowledge of time and place, with a permanent, lived-in quality brought to fruition by a remarkable ensemble cast. A director who never goes for cheap effect, Winterbottom subtly draws viewers into this haunting tale of family regained and the power of greed by letting them take in the details through small gestures. He is helped immeasurably by his production team, including the magnificent art direction by Mark Tildesley and cinematographer Alwin Kuchler, which conspires to create an epic picture that feels momentous as much with emotion as it does with visuals. The movie never draws attention to itself, which is why it becomes so affecting -- it is one of the few recent films that seem effortlessly rooted in its setting. Combined with his other 2000 offering -- the superb, working-class drama Wonderland) -- Winterbottom has become a master eavesdropper on lives as they are lived, creating a world that feels as real to the viewer as it does to the subjects onscreen.
by Jason Clark review