Liz (Stephanie Johnson) has tied her abusive husband Sam (Heath Sweatman) to a tree, during the coldest part of a frigid Wisconsin winter. Sam is bleeding and mostly naked. When Liz leads Mike (Bill Elverman), a best friend, out into the deep woods to show off her handiwork, Mike feels conflicted. Should he free Sam, or believe Liz’s stories of renewed abuse? Sam swears that his therapy has reformed him, and that Liz has just gone crazy, but Liz maintains that her black eye is Sam’s fresh handiwork.
What is Mike to do, who is Mike to believe?
This film might have been better if the question had remained ambiguous, but when Mike goes back to show Sam some compassion – abusive or not, he doesn’t deserve to die of exposure tied to a tree – we find out the truth about Sam. . . and about Liz.
It ain’t pretty.
The bleak and snowy Wisconsin landscape is a great setting for a film like this, but the short only partially succeeds. In addition to a predictable lack of subtlety or any surprising revelations in the closing minutes, “The Wintress” suffers from a poorly chosen lead actress who isn’t quite able to handle the emotional complexity of the role, and some unfortunate problems with lighting (Mike is almost always backlit, obscuring his face; renting one measly light would have fixed this).