The Winter Guest

The Winter Guest

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Rickman
Produced by Steve Clark-Hall
Written by Sharman Macdonald
Alan Rickman
Starring Emma Thompson
Phyllida Law
Sean Biggerstaff
Arlene Cockburn
Gary Hollywood
Douglas Murphy
Sheila Reid
Sandra Voe
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Seamus McGarvey
Edited by Scott Thomas
Distributed by Fine Line Features
Release dates
  • 24 December 1997 (1997-12-24)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Winter Guest is a 1997 film directed by Alan Rickman in his debut as a director, which stars Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson.


Set in Scotland on one wintry day, the film focuses on eight people; a mother and daughter, Elspeth (Phyllida Law) and Frances (Emma Thompson); two young boys skipping school, Sam (Douglas Murphy) and Tom (Sean Biggerstaff); two old women who frequently attend strangers' funerals, Chloe (Sandra Voe) and Lily (Sheila Reid); and two teenagers Nita (Arlene Cockburn) and Alex (Gary Hollywood). The film consists primarily of the interactions between the characters.


The film is based on Sharman MacDonald's play, premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (in the Quarry studio theatre, 23 January to 18 February 1995) before transferring to the Almeida Theatre in London (14 March to 15 April 1995).

Like the film it was also directed by Rickman, starring Law, Reid, Voe and John Wark, with Siân Thomas in the role of Frances, played in the film by Emma Thompson.


The film was met warmly by critics, with Thompson winning an award at the Venice Film Festival. But it was "Robin Don's remarkable set ... that grabs you before anything else" (Michael Billington in The Guardian, 25 January 1995): a house interior, promenade and snowbound seascape, which won Don the Design award in the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards in 1995.

Awards and nominations

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