Fri 30 Nov 2007
Ripley better watch out, Professor Snape has that look in his eye.
While I’ve been quite lax into getting to a googleplex lately, I haven’t stopped letting little red envelopes stuffed with DVDs get to my mailbox. As such, another beautiful film has stirred my mind and heart enough to warrant some discussion.
“Snow Cake” is the tale of a man whose inner conflicts have made him a closed and guarded individual. He meets a young girl thumbing her way across Canada that breaks her way through some of his emotional walls.
Of course, something that simple wouldn’t be enough for me so here’s the tragic twist. While driving, the pair are involved in a car accident and she dies. In an attempt to pay his respect and assuage his guilt, the lonely man happens upon the girl’s mother, who happens to be autistic and not completely capable of caring for herself.
He ends up taking on the role of caregiver and in the process finds a way to give himself the care he needs (sorry for the fortune cookie sentence, I just caught a bit of “Mystery Men” involving a character who phrased things this way … What? I know it’s a terrible film but it was in HD … I’ll watch just about anything if it’s in HD … which is obviously why I’d even bother catching any section of “Mystery Men” … oh, never mind).
Getting back on point, “Snow Cake” is a strikingly moving tale about loss, grief and redemption. While there are plenty of films that deal with this subject, the angle that this film takes by giving the mother autism is revealing.
Now, I’m no expert on autism (keep your jokes about me to yourself), and I can’t say I particularly care if they got it right in the film. I do know that Weaver’s performance is excellent and it provides an atypical mirror for Rickman’s guilty conscience to stare into.
As a result of her condition, Weaver’s character doesn’t hide her emotions and it’s this stunted development that allows her to be as naive and innocent as a child – giving the audience a lightening rod for their sympathy and empathy.
Another refreshing aspect to the film is Carrie-Anne Moss’ character – a next door neighbor with a healthy appetite for men (and I mean that with only the slightest tinge of sarcasm or innuendo). The relationship that she and Rickman develop is not the same old story we’ve seen a million times over. It’s not unique either but still, it’s a welcome change from the generic tales of finding love in the midst of tragedy that allows us to overcome our problems.
Life isn’t so simple as that and it’s nice to experience a film that doesn’t hold us with kid gloves. We’re meant to feel the pain and loss in the film. It’s up to us to take what lessons are on-screen and apply them, whether that means a profound change in behavior or just a moment of reflection on our inner motivations.
As I’ve glossed over so far, the performances are good all around, especially those of the main characters. Each could be characterized as elements of our own psyche broken up into more easy to define sub-categories … but maybe that’s too existential.
Adding to the film are quality music choices that don’t feel forced or used for the sake of having a cool soundtrack, wonderful cinematography and the patient editing and directorial choices to let scenes linger just a little longer than normal, letting the audience chew on the meaning of each scene rather than getting right to the next plot point.
Now, that’s not to say the film is perfect. There are some moments that feel a bit unnatural or implausible, which I can’t say aren’t unexpected when using such stark and raw elements, but it’s still something that breaks our connection with the world within the film.
If you’re looking for a poignant take on the sad, blunt tragedy that can befall everyday life, “Snow Cake” is a finely crafted example of how film can transcend the trite norm and touch something real within us. I’m giving it a strong 4 out of 5 and it will certainly take more time than I took to write this review to sort out just what this film has stirred up.