As we walked out of the theater and across the road to the parking lot I asked my lovely wife the obligatory post-movie question, “So what did you think?” Her response was near perfect, “I liked it, but it was just too… real.”
Snow Angels, David Gordon Green’s latest film based on the novel by Stewart O’Nan, is a dark, realistic, almost painful look into the lives of the residents of a small town and how their relationships intersect to create a tragic tapestry. And I can’t recommend it enough. It opens with the high school marching band practicing a terrible version of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, and the words that set the tone for the rest of the film; “We’re all part of the formation — every person matters.” The band director’s words are cut short though by the sound of not-too-distant gun shots. That’s when we rewind a few weeks to see the events that led up to this moment.
Don’t expect to be uplifted or encouraged. Expect instead to feel like a fly on the wall spying in on these very real people. Expect to sympathize with and possibly even dislike each and every character at one point or another. There is no clear-cut hero or villain. It’s a slice of life – a big, sloppy, bitter slice that you can’t help but be drawn in to.
The acting is very good. Kate Beckinsale & Michael Angarano both turn in excellent performances. Even Amy Sedaris, who I love dearly but isn’t what you would call a “good actress”, does a great job. The standout though, as he usually is in whatever he decides to do, is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell nails his portrayal of probably the most tragic and flawed character in the movie; which is saying a lot.
The only thing about the movie that we found distracting, besides the old guy behind us trimming his fingernails, was that it was impossible to figure out the time period. Much of the set was filled with very retro, dated objects, but with an occasional modern convenience thrown in; like a flat-screen TV and ear-bud headphones. The novel was actually set in 1974, but supposedly the movie was set in present day. Like I said, it was a bit distracting, but only because we let it be.
Over all, Snow Angels was an excellent movie – but not necessarily one I want to watch over and over.