Florin Scanlon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Aydin is a deeply flawed human being. He is condescending, manipulative, phony, he thinks of himself as profound when in fact he is shallow. He mistakes his selfishness for altruism, he expects nothing in return but ardently seeks personal gain or comfort. He finds his encounters with the tenants embarrassing, he avoids them like the plague, yet he doesn't miss a chance to mockingly assert his superiority. He wants to appear modest yet he will accept any words of praise or will turn others' shame into his moment of glory. He is friendly to the tourists not because he is kind but because it gives him a sense of gratification. He writes for the local newspaper to satisfy his intellectual side but doesn't want to go write for a bigger newspaper; maybe it's because the number of readers he has is of no importance to him or maybe it's because he is at a safe distance from critics or a significantly larger number of intelligent readers who would see right through him. He is controlling and possessive over his wife Nihal, pretending to offer her freedom and a marriage of equal footing. He lives in a bubble that he can govern to his liking. He is a chameleon that changes his appearance and identity according to his needs, environment and the people he interacts with.
Still, Aydin is a human being. He is flawed but being flawed is part of being human. He thinks he's the master of his thoughts but by the end he realizes he's the servant. His chameleon personality seems to be his way of surviving, the only way he knows how to engage. He's afraid, afraid of being alone, afraid of losing contact, afraid of losing his identity, afraid of falling into despair. He's engaged in many activities in an attempt to fill the void that's crushing him. He is desperate for empathy. He seems lost, without a purpose. Is it selfish to not want to be alone? Should he be blamed for being wealthy? Should he be blamed for following his own interests? What constitutes a good deed? Is a good deed done for personal gain any less good? Why come out of the bubble? Nuri Bilge Ceylan presents these questions to his characters (and audience), first to break their false sense of reality and then to torment their souls.
The characterizations are so rich and the characters so layered that the level of access the audience is given to these characters is staggering, and potentially frightening as it may reveal unpleasant things about our nature. The quiet moments of solitude, the long, unbroken conversations that continually evolve, the many feelings that are felt, all make the characters seem very real and true to life. Aydin is a fully realized character, developed in a fully engrossing way; at the beginning we think he's a great person, then we see how flawed he can be, and by the end he sees that himself. The same goes for Nihal, a depressed woman whose marriage seems to make her life fade away and whose idea of fulfillment involves finding solace anywhere but in said marriage. Necla, Aydin's sister, is described by vanity and burdened by her divorce. In contrast, the tenants family, having material problems (they're poor), seems free of any emotional burdens. Ismail, even if a drunk who treats his wife and boy harshly, has a very clear mind. He previously went to prison but what he did he considered just; he didn't hesitate when Nihal came to him to offer money. He and his wife have found their purpose in raising their child. Hamdi, Ismail's brother and the local imam, has found solace in God, his mother in prayer. Ilyas, the young boy, in a crucial moment, says he wants to be a cop when he grows up, something Nihal struggles to understand. Protecting the moral values of this society, deciding what's right or wrong, separating the bad from the good, is something that makes sense only to those clear of mind; to those solely concerned with their self, clouded by feeble concerns and contradictory notions and to those lacking a purpose, it does not.
The coming of the winter could signify purification and clarity of the mind, something Aydin lacks at the beginning and seems to almost achieve, or realize he lacks, by the end (as it appears from the apologetic narration at the end, the only element of the film that seems to be out of place as the images already conveyed what the words in the narration expressed). Yet, as the title implies, this is only a phase, a winter sleep; spring will follow soon enough, the tourists will come pouring in, and the chameleon will no longer be exposed by the whiteness of the snow - it will instead blend in with the greens and grays and muddy colors of society and of self's painted caverns. All will be as it was, an indistinguishable landscape, as part of an endless, inescapable cycle.
Winter Sleep is a fantastic movie, a stunning character study that provides poignant social commentary and insight into the human nature. It is about social division, ego, marriage, loneliness, morality, doubt and about so much more that awaits to be discovered.
Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.