By Marc Glassman
Winter in Wartime
Martin Koolhoven, director and co-writer w/3 others
Based on the novel by Jan Terlouw
Starring: Martijn Lakemeier (Michiel van Beusekom), Yorick van Wageningen (Oom Ben), Jamie Campbell Bower (Jack), Raymond Thiry (Vader van B), Melody Klaver (Erica van B)
For most adolescents, the journey towards adulthood is a difficult and dramatic one. Multiply the potential for drama by 500 percent and you have the tale of Michiel van Beusekom, a Dutch boy, who finds himself mixed up with the anti-Nazi Resistance as the Second World War nears its conclusion.
Winter in Wartime is a classic Dutch novel and this adaptation by Martin Koolhoven handles the source material well–though slightly sentimentally. Young Michiel is “everyboy” Dutch-style: mean to his lovely sister Erica, a nurse, and suspicious of his father, who is the Mayor of their small town. By comparison “Oom (Uncle) Ben” is regarded warmly by Michiel; he has a reputation as a supporter of the Resistance and seems manlier than his diplomatic father.
Everything changes when Jack, a British pilot, is shot down outside of the village. Somehow, the flyer escapes into the woods, evoking the silent support of much of the town, including Michiel. Almost by accident, Michiel becomes enmeshed in the fate of the young Englishman in their midst.
Helping the injured Jack–once he finds him–forces Michiel to involve Erica and Oom Ben. Soon, even Michiel’s “vater” is implicated in the British boy’s tale, with fateful consequences. Combining aspects of a War story, a thriller and a family drama, Winter in Wartime evokes a time and place long gone. Its narrative joys may be too old-fashioned for modern audiences–but this is a worthy film.