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Release Date: March 28th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1979

Chilly Scenes of Winter - The Criterion Collection

Overview -

In the late 70s and early 80s, the rom-com genre was having quite the popular moment, though introspective and witty dramas like Joan Micklin Silver’s 1979 film Chilly Scenes of Winter were often marketed under the guise of a rom-com to capitalize upon the moment. Silver’s reflexive and masterful work arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion and boasting a new 4K restoration that improves upon previous releases very nicely. Add a nice collection of newly produced and archival supplements and you get a Recommended release!

The trailblazing Joan Micklin Silver—one of only five women to direct a film for a Hollywood studio in the 1970s—digs fearlessly into the psychology of a thorny relationship in this anti–romantic comedy, based on Ann Beattie’s best-selling novel, about lovelorn civil servant Charles (John Heard) and his married-but-separated coworker Laura (Mary Beth Hurt). Months after their affair has ended, Charles is haunted by memories as he desperately attempts to rekindle a love that perhaps never was. Switching deftly between past and present, Micklin Silver guides this piercing deconstruction of male wish-fulfillment fantasy beyond standard movie-romance tropes into something more complicated and cuttingly truthful.


  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New program featuring producers Griffin Dunne, Mark Metcalf, and Amy Robinson
  • Documentary from 1983 by Katja Raganelli about director Joan Micklin Silver
  • Excerpts of a 2005 interview with Micklin Silver
  • Original ending of the film, cut by Micklin Silver for its rerelease in 1982
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by scholar Shonni Enelow

    New cover by Marc Aspinall

Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
New, restored 4K digital transfer
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English uncompressed monaural soundtrack
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Release Date:
March 28th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Chilly Scenes of Winter was always designed to be more than a romantic comedy, it was right there in the original novel written by Ann Beattie. But where Beattie effortlessly spun a tale about the paranoia, obsession and longing that comes with being in a relationship in your 20s, Silver takes off to harness all those sharp emotions as if it’s a sort-of denouement that makes the audience realize just unfailingly human we all are for being so invested. It’s a masterstroke that resolves so much both on and off the screen, or maybe that’s because I found much of myself in the film. Either way, Silver was a maverick that sidestepped conventional tropes with an attention to the wry, pathetic, and pathetically funny things we do in life for love or just because we’re bored.

Much like Beattie’s novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter details the life of Charles (John Heard), a handsome but bored civil servant going through a tough winter in Utah. He’s an impetuous romantic, hastened by the fact that there’s not much to do in Utah in the winter. But one day, he meets a lovely coworker in the filing department by the name of Laura (Mary Beth Hurt). Laura is currently separated from her husband, though Charles really didn’t need much convincing before getting all misty-eyed for Laura. The duo soon fall in love and move in together, but things fall apart. That love continues to haunt Charles, pushing him to, well, do anything for love. 

The true thrill of Chilly Scenes of Winter comes from just how well John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt color in their characters between the lines. We’re able to get easily invested in these two because they’re like human ciphers in a way, showcasing and studying all of the sharp, intense emotions we usually try to keep locked away. Think of the first time you became head over heels for someone or the feeling of failure that pervaded when you realized that your view of love didn’t match your partner’s. Silver goes deep on these moments with the kind of wry approach you’d expect from someone like Billy Wilder, though the accuracy and texture Silver brings are far different than the Wilder.

There’s truly so much to love about Chilly Scenes of Winter, and even today it serves as a truthful Hollywood-produced gem. You don’t get too much of that nowadays. For an introspective double feature, watch Grease before this. You’ll be pushed to compare and contrast the approaches to love in both films.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Chilly Scenes of Winter joins the Criterion Collection with a one-disc Blu-ray (BD50) release that comes with an essay booklet inside the standard clear Scanavo case. The Blu-ray boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, explore supplements, select chapters and set up audio.

Video Review


Criterion doesn’t leave Chilly Scenes of Winter out in the cold, as this new 1080p, AVC-encoded picture is a very nice upgrade over previous releases. The previous Twilight Time Blu-ray looks slightly anemic compared to this new 4K digital transfer sourced from the original camera negative. Flesh tones are very true and never flush. Whites in particular gain a much more natural balance. Those exterior shots of snowy Utah look a lot more stable and refined while respecting the film grain. Black levels are excellent as well, showcased in the film’s many darkly lit or darker scenes. I did notice a few moments that looked unnaturally soft and was wondering if those were inherent to the source, though again, it was just a few shots.

Audio Review


The provided LPCM mono track was remastered from the original 35mm magnetic track and you can really tell, as fidelity is very good and the source seems to be in really good condition. Dialogue and music are balanced nicely, with Ken Lauber’s light score making Charles’ search for love even more self-effacing. This is the opposite of a loud rom-com, so no big, score-bolstered moments abound, and the track handles everything well. I didn’t notice any damage throughout.

Special Features


The Criterion Collection improves upon the previous Twilight Time Blu-ray release in the supplements department as well, although it’s just missing a commentary from the TT disc. The new half-hour program with producers Griffin Dunne, Mark Metcalf and Amy Robinson is especially enlightening, as the trio all are very happy to talk about working with Joan Micklin Silver. It’s clear that Silver won them over almost immediately after submitting her own treatment of Ann Beattie’s novel. The origingal ending is included as well as a special feature, which really rewrites just how wry and funny Charles’ dilemma should be at the end.

  • New program featuring producers Griffin Dunne, Mark Metcalf, and Amy Robinson (HD 28:07)
  • Documentary from 1983 by Katja Raganelli about director Joan Micklin Silver (SD 45:32)
  • Excerpts from a 2005 Directors Guild of America interview with Micklin Silver (SD 14:34)
  • Original ending of the film, cut by Micklin Silver for its rerelease in 1982 (HD 8:41)
  • Trailer (HD 1:44)
  • Booklet essay by scholar Shonni Enelow

Final Thoughts

Joan Micklin Silver’s inquisitive romantic drama Chilly Scenes of Winter joins the Criterion Collection with a Blu-ray release that comes with a very pleasing new 4K transfer, as well as a nice collection of new and archival supplements. Silver’s direction of the film is more than capable, plumbing moments of strong emotional response with just the right depth. John Heard is the perfect fit for the main character, and Mary Beth Hurt matches the wry content very well. This release comes Recommended!