Small towns are the nicest places when you’re in a good mood and the worst jungles when you feel trapped in depression. That’s what makes them perfect set-ups for dramas like David Gordon Green’s latest indie feature Snow Angels, not your typical tale of hope rising amidst total tragedy.
This is a story that brings in the spotlight two troubled families and a bunch of troubled people. Annie (Kate Beckinsale) is a single mother working hard at the local chinese restaurant to cope after separating with her alcoholic husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell). Meanwhile he lays off the bottle through religion’s path and tries to re-establish himself in Annie and their girl’s life as a responsible male figure but constantly fails to make amends. Alongside Annie works Arthur (Michael Angarano), a teenager with a harmless crash on her since she was his babysitter some years ago and Barb (Amy Sedaris), a married woman with a hot temper. While Arthur’s father Don is leaving the house on grounds of a possible broken marriage, Annie seeks warmth and sexual satisfaction in the arms of Barb’s husband Nate.
The boy watches all that as he gradually falls in love with his newfound sweetheart, the adorable Lila (Olivia Thirlby), naturally rewriting relationship history from the beginning. When a crisis bursts that has the whole town on it’s feet the time comes for tensions to climax…
Green adapted this script from a novel of the same name and apparently stayed faithfull to the original. He begins his narration with a gunshot disrupting the practice of a high-school marching band and flashes back to how we came to this point. The tragedies are unravelled one by one either in the forefront or in the shade of the most tender of movie teenage love affairs i can remember. Hopefulness and hopelessness march together although in a whole different tune just like Arthur’s marching band. But not even this heavy and emotional set-up could prepare us for the climactic scene.
The director gets a great deal from his actors, a must-do in independent films like that which don’t have any hype to sell. Kate Beckinsale makes a wise career move and proves she has range along with her sexy presence while Sam Rockwell handles the trickiest but also the most attention-drawing role with undisputed passion. The dialogue is very well written and feels natural throughout the film. I really liked the two youngsters Michael Arangano and Olivia Thirlby who found good chemistry and succesfully balanced the grim outlook of their co-stars’ fates. The rest of the cast is also brilliant.
The whole drama is played-out with a lot of humorous intervals, like small valves for letting steam out and controling the pressure. This is what puts us at ease while things are not really going well. The end feels a bit too much though. This kind of conclusion could seem unrealistic, not compatible with real life’s usual inertia.
Nevertheless this is independent film-making at its best with a touch of mainstream melodrama but in its gloomiest form. To love it you have to trust it all the way.