Sunday, 11 February 2007

Snow Cake (2005)

Snow Cake

Snow Cake is one of those little gems you stumble on all too rarely. It's an old-fashioned tale of ordinary folk coping with difficult circumstances, and overcoming adversity. In other circumstances, and with a cast of this calibre, this would be a shoo-in for a BAFTA or an oscar, but presumably the low budget, the international cast and the lack of funds to play the political games required, means that this time round Snow Cake lost out.

Whatever the reasons for lack of recognition may be, it certainly wasn't for the quality of the script or the acting, both of which demonstrate just how vacuous most of what fills our multiplexes each week is.

Snow Cake screencap

Alan Rickman plays Alex, a lonely, damaged figure who has just come out of prison for reasons that will become clear fairly late on in the story. He bumps into Vivienne (Emily Hampshire), an outgoing, bumptious teenager who persuades him to give her a lift. When a truck hits Alex's vehicle, through no fault of his own, Vivienne is killed and Alex feels the need to visit her mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver) and express his condolensces and sense of guilt. Linda is autistic and doesn't play by anybody else's rules and the film explores the relationship that develops between Alex and Linda, together with the attractive, if somewhat promiscuous, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss).

Snow Cake screencap

The stand-out performance is undoubtedly that of Sigourney Weaver, whose unsentimental portrayal of autism is alternately laugh-out-loud funny, sad and moving. The actress apparently spent the best part of a year researching autism, and it shows in her performance. Her character, Linda, is difficult but ultimately the healer for Alex who comes to appreciate her honesty, innocence and complete lack of sentimentality, in ways her immediate friends and family have failed to.

Rickman is one of those actors who can be rather over-the-top in his performance, to the point where one sometimes feels he appears to think he is doing panto! Not so here, and his understated performance is just what the character needs. He is our way in to not just Linda's story, but that of Maggie who is to prove another vital element in the healing of Alex.

Snow Cake screencap

The cinematography is beautifully presented on this near-perfect transfer to DVD. The beautiful snow-bound countryside (much of it apparently fake as a thaw set in earlier than expected) of small-town Canada is beautifully depicted, and the music score by Broken Social Scene matches perfectly, with pop-rock classics also being used to reflect the influence of Vivienne where appropriate.

If you like your movies to be big-budget action set pieces then this probably isn't for you. But if you like beautifully observed character pieces, with strong dialogue and direction that let the story gently unfold at its own pace, then Snow Cake is a film I think you'll greatly enjoy.

Snow Cake screencap

Unusually, the twenty minutes of deleted scenes are the highlight of the extra's. Finished to the same standard as the film, complete with score and stunning transfer, they add little stories and anecdotes that add to the depth of the film - in many ways it's a shame they had to be cut out, presumably because the film was already running past the 'safe' 90 minute mark.

The 'Making of' at around 20 minutes isn't quite as fluffy as the usual marketing featurettes, and gives the history of the project, as seen from the director and various cast members' point of view. The only disappointment here is that the writer Angela Pell is conspicuous by her absence.

A trailer, curiously presented in 4:3 format instead of the original widescreen, is also included.

Snow Cake is a touching, funny and warm movie. Definitely it's worth a rental, if not an outright purchase. Highly recommended!

Snow Cake screencap

1 comment:

Bbb said...

One of my favourites movies. I just love it. It's a beautiful film.