Snow Angels (2008)

Snow Angels is a 2008 drama directed by David Gordon Green. He’s likely best known for directing the stoner comedy Pineapple Express, but in Snow Angels shows us that he understands people, or at least, their relationships with one another. That is what Snow Angels really is about. It shows the different stages of relationships, how they can work, and how they can be destroyed so easily. It does this in a compelling, interesting and insightful way, but does fall short when it comes to striking an emotional balance.

It doesn’t strike a good balance when it comes to emotions, as the sad parts of the film far outweigh the happy ones. Snow Angels is not a happy film. In fact, I would definitely not recommend watching it if you are not currently in a good frame of mind. You see, when you’re already upset, and you see something else upsetting, it builds onto your already sad emotional state. This leaves you feeling even worse off than you already were. Snow Angels is one of those films that will leave you in a worse state. It does have its happy moments, but the sad parts stay with you long after the film reaches a conclusion.

Snow Angels really is a film about relationships, the different stages they go through, as well as the outside factors that affect them. The main story of the film is about the relationship between a former couple. Kate Beckinsale plays Annie, a mother who has separated from her husband. Her former husband’s name is Glenn, and he is played by Sam Rockwell. Sam plays a recovering alcoholic, who has turned to religion after an attempted suicide nearly took his life. Annie is currently raising their daughter by herself, as well as trying to not completely mess up her own life. The secondary story is the budding romance between two high school students, Arthur and Lila, played by Michael Angarano and Olivia Thirlby respectively. The two end up carrying the majority of hope throughout the story, holding the only true happiness the film has to offer.

The film opens up with a marching band rehearsal. As that is going on, gunfire is heard in the distance. Before long, the film travels back in time a few weeks and begins telling a story of beauty and sorrow. Being a drama, Snow Angels has to rely on storytelling and characterization in order to hold the audience’s attention. Both of those elements are pulled off well, as the film stays interesting throughout, even when small doses of character development are thrown in.

I found every actor in this film did an amazing job. They helped bring their characters to life; as well as allow us to see what the characters are going through as the events of the film unfold. Big congratulations go to both Beckinsale and Rockwell for carrying the film even when it gets dark, as well as to Angarano and Thirlby for making a realistic high school couple.

A film like this is one that is such an emotional rollercoaster that it may not be one that you would even want to watch again.

Character development is important, but without a story for them to develop around, you don’t really have a movie. The director understood this, and told a story that the audience actually will care about. Even though the finale of the film is heard a few minutes into the movie, you don’t get to know who is involved until the end. And even then, one major event near the middle of the film is the driving force towards the ending.

Since Snow Angels does have well-developed characters, almost right from the beginning of the film, the event near the middle becomes far more effective. You see, when an event happens that forces development upon its characters, it can be effective in its own right. However, the event often holds far less significance, and often times are forgotten by the end. But, when the characters are already well-developed, if a significant event takes place that morphs them further, both the event and characters matter. Snow Angels is a good example of the latter technique. It gives you interesting characters and then throws in a major event to finish off the rest of the story. A story becomes more interesting when people you care about are in them.

As for the characters, moral ambiguity is another subject that is touched upon within the movie. You can never really say that any one character is in the right or wrong. This isn’t a film where each character is a representation of “good” or “evil.” Each character has redeeming qualities, as well as negative ones. Kind of like real people. This is especially true of both Annie and Glenn. For the first half of the film, you’ll likely sympathize far more with one over the other, but by the second half, you’ll probably have switched those thoughts around, as character’s true identities begin to be unleashed.

Whatever criticisms I have quickly get swept under the carpet due to the quality of the whole film. For what it’s worth, Snow Angels is not a perfect film. The story, while told in an engaging and beautiful way is actually fairly predictable. There really aren’t any major twists or plot points that will come out of nowhere. Despite the fact that the entire film is told in a flashback scenario, that isn’t why the story isn’t hard to figure out. It is easy because every character acts exactly how you believe that they will. During the second half of the film, you will learn how certain characters view the world. Since the actors do a great job bringing these characters to life, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to what they are thinking, and why they are thinking it. The characters will act accordingly, and almost follow their thoughts to a tee. This allows the film to stay consistent, but also makes the story a bit too predictable. You will likely see everything coming before it happens, and while this isn’t a large problem, it does detract a bit from the film, especially the film’s finale.

With all that said, Snow Angels is definitely a film you should watch. Probably not while in a sad mood, but you really should go see it. It’s a beautiful film that tells an important story. It’s a story that is well told, and while it won’t shock you with twists and turns, it’s told in a compelling way that will leave you emotionally drained by the end. It really is an amazing film, but I’m not sure that you will definitely want to watch it again. A film like this is one that is such an emotional rollercoaster that it may not be one that you would even want to watch again. Give it a look, though, as the first time you watch it, it will be an experience you hopefully will not forget anytime soon.

Conclusion: An emotionally draining film, Snow Angels is a fantastic experience.

Recommendation: If you’re in the mood for a strong weepy, Snow Angels is worth a watch.

Rating: ****1/2

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