Review: Snow Angels
PLOT: Annie Marchand is trying to move on with her life. She is raising her child on her own while Glenn, her little girls father, is trying to get his life together. As their relationship has fallen apart, young Arthur is finding interest in the new girl as school named Lila. And his only influence is his dad who left his mom to find himself. It all takes place in a small town. As each relationship connects, a tragedy occurs leaving each one of them scarred. But there is always a small glimmer of hope deep down as Arthur and Lila find each other, hopefully not ending up like the others.
A high school marching band is rehearsing for the big game. It is cold as the snow surrounds the football field and each member seems to be sleepwalking through Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”. It is then that the band teacher, full of his own regret or disdain and what have you, begins to tell them a thing or two. He reminds them that the big game is Friday and they need to have pride in what they are doing. They need to step up and be his Sledgehammer. In the midst of his speech (or breakdown), a gunshot is heard. It is the very thing that will awaken this sleepy town. And if you have ever lived in a town like this, you will find a frighteningly honest portrayal of those who live in a place where everybody knows everybody else. David Gordon Green has uncovered the sadness and the longing that hovers over the characters he brilliantly draws out in SNOW ANGELS.
It’s no surprise that Mr. Green made a great film about this kind of small town society. After all, films like ALL THE REAL GIRLS thoroughly represent this place which, unless you are from there, might seem strange. Yet every detail he maps out is very precise and delicate. SNOW ANGELS is no different. If anything, he has achieved an even more emotional punch with this story. It may be cliché nowadays to describe a film as the journey of three couples, at different stages in their lives and how they affect those around them. I think there may even be a sitcom recently that did something like this. But unlike most films of this ilk, there is no saccharine sweet sentimentality here. Based on a novel by Stewart O’Nan, this breakdown of failed relationships and lost hope interspersed with the beginnings of love is a fascinating and ultimately heartbreaking one.
It is Arthur Parkinson (Michael Angarano) who seems to be connected to each of the storylines. It is him and his mom Louise (Jeannetta Arnette) whose husband (Griffin Dunne) seems to be having a mid-life crisis. At his work, he is friends with Annie Marchand (Kate Beckinsale) who is a single mother dealing with their child’s father Glenn (Sam Rockwell). Glenn is having trouble adjusting to life without his family after what appears to be his own personal breakdown. And it is the new girl at school named Lila (Olivia Thirlby) who is turning her attention towards Arthur. And Michael Angarano’s solid performance here is enough of a tie to connect with the world around him. In fact, all the performances h are terrific. Beckinsale and Rockwell are wonderful as the couple who seem to be falling farther apart. And Olivia Thrilby is thrilling as the girl who brings a little light to Arthur.
I was truly impressed with the visuals here. Green and cinematographer Tim Orr create some vibrant images while the camera lingers over the films inhabitants. Sometimes the camera lingers on an image when necessary, yet occasionally, there are quick cuts that seem to not want to give too much information. This is filmmaking at its finest. In one particular shot, we witness a terrible thing that is about to happen, the tension is almost agonizing at the thought of what is about to take place. I won’t give anything away, but trust me, it will not be forgotten soon afterwards. It was very impressive to see how each moment builds up to the next. Not that every scene is shocking or violent or anything like that. When Arthur is with Lila, the two are able to bring hope into the sadness and loss that much of the film portrays. The separate stories are told exceptionally well, they belong in this world together.
I avoided giving too much away about what happens in the midst of SNOW ANGELS, because too much information would not be beneficial. But I will say that this is a deeply heartbreaking story. It is tragic and will not be an easy watch for those who don’t have the stomach for such a dark drama. There is humor but it surrounded by a very tough subject, with the only light being one which Lila and Arthur bring. I was reminded a bit by the wonderful Ang Lee film THE ICE STORM while watching this. Both are deeply atmospheric and very sad. The very human condition that occurs is well represented here by the quality of the performances and by the every other aspect of the film, right back to the talented David Gordon Green. Also worth noting is the simple and delicate score by David Wingo and Jeff McIlwain. An absolute must see as long as you are not afraid of the emotional impact that comes with it. My rating 9/10 -- JimmyO