Timo’s Winter

By Giulio Mastromauro | Drama
A young boy who lives among carnival workers faces the hardest winter of his life.

Timo is a young Greek boy who lives among a community of carnival workers. He lives in a trailer with his extended family, including his bedridden mother wasting away from an unspecified illness.

Timo’s life is a quiet one, especially during the cold, bleak offseason when no one goes to the fairgrounds. But just on the verge of the park reopening, Timo’s mother passes away, and the young boy and his family must pass the hardest winter of their lives as they deal with their loss.

This Oscar-longlisted short drama — directed and co-written by Giulio Mastromauro, with co-writer Andrea Brusa — is a humble, poetic portrait of grief, as well as a unique childhood spent among an equally singular community.

It is a profoundly quiet film, with spare dialogue and very little musical score in the first half of the film. But the visuals are richly evocative, filled with textures and thoughtfulness. Like a child whose attention is fascinated by the smallest detail, the camera captures the sights and sounds that comprise Timo’s ramshackle world, and the gestures and expressions of the grown-ups around him, which seems perhaps grimmer than usual.

Rendered in melancholic lighting, muted colors and a slower, meditative editing pace, a snapshot of a world emerges. A quiet but deep sorrow suffuses the silences and spaces both out in the park and within Timo’s home, and the young child is not quite sure what to make of it. The family already faces poverty, despite their hard work and efforts. But the illness of Timo’s mother casts a much more troubling shadow over everything, though no one has told him just how sick she is.

The elongated storytelling and profound quiet of the film’s first half ripen into an extraordinarily poignant second half, as Timo finally understands his mother will not get better. And in fact, she passes away, sending the family to a crisis point. The community offers its condolences, in a lovely scene that captures the simple but moving way they honor the family’s loss and offer consolation. But the loss is still heartbreaking and profoundly isolating, especially for Timo, whose father is unmoored in his raging grief.

With a beautifully understated performance, young actor Christian Petaroscia is remarkable as Timo and captures his watchfulness, curiosity and growing bewilderment as the storytelling progresses. He says very little in the film, but his face and expressions are so open and responsive that simply watching him is compelling. When Timo breaks open in grief, the moment’s honesty and authenticity is an expression of the pain borne by the deepest of grief, and absolutely heartbreaking to watch.

“Timo’s Winter” is based on a true story, and the film’s epigraph both hints at the inspiration and offers a final, touching moment of grace in a film that emerges profoundly poetic at its conclusion. In its avoidance of melodrama and its courage to let simple yet elegant images speak volumes, it achieves a genuine sense of tragedy. It is a hushed but honest portrayal of a hard loss for a family already facing hard times, and its muteness in the face of unspeakable grief is eloquent and heartrending.

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