Fate can have a perverse sense of humor, a predilection never so apparent as in "Winter Sleepers," a tale of five desperate souls in a remote German mountain village, and how their lives intertwine.
Marco (Heino Fech) is a self-centered boor who's involved in a textbook love-hate relationship with the lovely Rebecca (Floriane Daniel), who shares a house with Laura (Marie-Lou Sellem), a nurse who falls in love with the mysterious Rene (Ulrich Matthes), who suffers from short-term memory loss and thus doesn't remember that he caused an automobile accident in which a young girl was critically injured.
A few more essential plot points: Rene was driving a stolen car, the car belonged to Marco (a fact Rene didn't know at the time), Laura is the young accident victim's nurse, and the young girl's father, Theo (Josepf Bierbichler), is out for revenge -- even though the only thing he remembers about the driver is the ugly scar on the back of is head.
"Winter Sleepers" sits back and watches quietly as these five unhappy players go about their business.
Events unfold at an exceedingly slow and deliberate pace as fate seems to have no idea where matters are headed.
But seems is the operative word. Ultimately, characters are manipulated and lives made whole in ways both satisfying and unexpected.
Director Tom Tykwer made "Winter Sleepers" before his more recent film, the widely acclaimed "Run Lola Run."
This earlier film lacks its successor's energy and verve, but fine performances (especially from Daniel, whose Rebecca proves a little too willing to let fate have its way) and some wondrous camerawork from director of photography Frank Griebe suggest Tykwer is no one-hit -- or one-speed -- wonder.
Starring Ulrich Matthes, Marie-Lou Sellem and Floriane Daniel
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Released by Winstar Cinema Unrated (Language, sexual situations)
In German, with English subtitles
Running time 124 minutes
Sun score: ** 1/2