A man coping with the institutionalization of his wife because of Alzheimer's disease faces an epiphany when she transfers her affections to another man, Aubrey, a wheelchair-bound mute who also is a patient at the nursing home.
On a cold afternoon, with snow on the ground, the high school band is practicing for the last football game. They hear shots. Flashback a few weeks before. Arthur is a high school student, bussing at a restaurant. Annie and Barb are waitresses there - Annie was Arthur's babysitter when he was little. She's now separated from her husband Glenn, who's on the wagon, starting a new job, praying to Jesus, and trying to prove he has his balance back so he can see more of their small daughter, Tara. Annie's seeing someone else, Arthur's parents have just separated, and Arthur is attracted to Lila, a new student at the high school. It's a small town, people's lives cross. Written by
David Gordon Green, who would end up directing the film, first worked on the script for another director. After 3 years, this other director moved on to other projects and Green was approached by the producers to make the film. See more »
In the scene where Arthur takes a swig from a bottle of beer hidden on the floor, he raises it with the label facing him. In the next cut scene, as he lowers the bottle, the label can be clearly seen facing the camera. See more »
Arthur, I'm gonna ask you a favour to not bottle this up inside, okay? It's easy for us to block out the things that upset us, that's what I do. That's what most people do. But it's important that you feel through this, it's so important I can't tell you.
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"Snow Angels" is a glimpse in time of several relationships, some simmering and ready to boil, others cooling down, and at least one whose flame has yet to be lit. It's also a thriller, with a gunshot that is heard as the film opens. The narrative is linear but writer/director David Gordon Green, adapting the novel by Stewart O'Nan, takes the couples' stories and interweaves them in such a way that we never quite know all the secrets at the heart of the mystery. The film flashes back as we try to see how we got from there to here. In many ways the overriding theme deals with the promise of what once was versus the reality of what could have been. The "reality" is embodied in the relationships which are falling apart, as evident in the older couples. The "promise" is represented by the young couple whose lives are just beginning.
At the heart of the film is the crumbling relationship between Sam Rockwell as Glenn and Kate Beckinsale as Annie. We watch Glenn almost literally disintegrating before our eyes as he tries to get a grip on who he is and why his marriage is failing. Glenn is one of the most frightening characters I've seen outside of horror films. Kate Beckinsale's Annie is breathtaking, in every sense of the word. We bear witness to a life in free fall as everything and everyone she loves seems just out of reach. You know those dreams where you can't quite get to where you want? You try to touch it but it stays at arm's length? That's Annie's world. We so painfully watch as the madness around her takes its toll, and she weathers the way rain erodes rich topsoil, leaving little but rocky dirt underneath. Amy Sedaris is Annie's best friend Barb. She has her own marital fires to put out, and the relationship between Annie and Barb progresses in a way nobody can imagine. She is a joy to watch. In the midst of the darkness there are some lighter moments as well, and Michael Angarano (Arthur Parkinson), Olivia Thirlby (Lila Raybern), and Connor Paolo (Warren) have the lion's share of them. They are essentially the light in the darkness that surrounds the rest of the film. It should be no surprise to fans of Angarano that writer/director David Gordon Green would have chosen him to play Arthur Parkinson. He's not yet comfortable in his own skin, a trait which could describe most adolescents. He's a bit shy, nervous, and even nerdy, yet he is charming enough that everyone else seems drawn to him even though he doesn't seem to be aware of it. As Arthur's muse, Olivia Thirlby's Lila is the female representation of those awkward teenage years and an almost equal counterpart to Michael's Arthur. Their tender tiptoeing around each other is one of the most touching depictions of first love I've seen in cinema. Connor, as Arthur's best friend Warren, provides some much needed comic relief. He is a smart-ass whose ego often backfires. He's funny and not quite as smart as he thinks he is. Among other standout performances is Griffin Dunne (Don) as Arthur's flighty dad. Or should we say father, not really the "Dad" that Arthur wants or needs him to be, but the boy clings to him in this critical time of life when he is most in need of a male role model. But he won't find one here. It's this failure to connect which climaxes in an exchange between them that gave me chills. It was a jaw-dropping moment.
So much of the film is frightening that, as Green said in the Q&A afterward, he had to find actors who could infuse some humor into their characters, otherwise it would be too heavy. All around me were glistening eyes and tissues wiping away tears. At its heart it is a sad story and the audience was hushed at the end. Many have wondered how much of the film is David Gordon Green's adaptation as opposed to the Stewart O'Nan novel on which it is based. Green did discuss this at length in the Q&A. After reading the book, he knew he had to make it into a film. But he also immediately knew that it would have to be heavily adapted. The more he wrote the more he realized just how much would really have to come from his own hand. The impression I got was that what we see on screen is much more David's work than maybe even he had initially anticipated.
Jeff McIlwain and David Wingo's score is haunting, as is the film. It is used sparsely, only to punctuate the dramatic moments, as the subject matter is weighty enough that it didn't need much augmentation. It's used efficiently and effectively. The film is visually stunning. No surprise here, as it was shot by Green's longtime collaborator Tim Orr. His work is unmistakable -- gutters dripping, swings on a swing set, clouds, contrails, aluminum siding -- you can always tell his work. He sees language in shapes and movement of inanimate objects. He then connects them to the action in the story, often with a wink and a nod. Blink and you might miss it. The beautiful winter landscape of Nova Scotia gives him a palette from which he can choose many colors. The juxtaposition of Orr's beautiful photography with the horrors David Gordon Green exposes us to in "Snow Angels" is nothing short of genius.
This is a true work of art, to which many filmmakers aspire. Few hit the mark. I'm not sure if that's what David Gordon Green was trying to do here, but he did it nonetheless. There is little doubt in my mind that this is a film which will make you think about the innocence of youth and how fleeting it is, and make you wonder if it has to be that way.
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