Acclaimed British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom is known for making intense, passionate films that explore the demands of human relationships and emotional commitment. He first earned recognition with Butterfly Kisses (1995), a somewhat controversial revision of the buddy/road genre that told the story of a pair of lesbians (Saskia Reeves and Amanda Plummer) who go on a killing spree across Great Britain.
Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, on March 29, 1961, Winterbottom earned a degree at Oxford and received film training in Bristol and London. After beginning his professional career as a film editor for Thames Television, he directed two documentaries about Ingmar Bergman and a few television series, most notably the acclaimed BBC drama Family (1994).
The same year that Butterfly Kiss was released, Winterbottom presented audiences with a film of an entirely different sort. Go Now, a romantic drama starring Robert Carlyle as a man whose life is turned inside out after he is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was a tough yet sweet look at life's hard knocks. It featured stunning performances from Carlyle and Juliet Aubrey, who played his lover, and it earned an overwhelmingly strong reception.
Winterbottom followed Go Now with a film that was in a much darker emotional vein: Jude, his 1996 adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Starring Christopher Eccleston as its doomed protagonist and Kate Winslet as his equally ill-fated paramour, the film earned fairly strong reviews, though many critics -- and audience members -- found its unyielding pessimism hard to take. Equally heart-rending was Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo (1997), which focused on the experiences of a group of journalists and civilians in war-torn Sarajevo. The first major Western film to take place in the former Yugoslavia, it debuted at the 1997 Cannes Festival, where it received a warm reception but no awards. The film's Cannes reception mirrored the way in which audiences subsequently responded to it; although it received largely positive critical notices, audiences stayed away due in part to the difficult subject matter.
After making the romantic crime drama I Want You (1998), Winterbottom directed one of his most anticipated films to date, Wonderland (1999). An ensemble drama focusing on the lives of three lower-middle-class sisters in London, the film marked a departure from the kind of emotionally devastating works with which Winterbottom had made his name. That same year, he released With or Without You, a romantic drama about a couple whose marriage is threatened when old flames and amorous pen pals enter the picture.