Love is one of the trickiest feelings anyone could ever experience. Being in love has the undeniable ability to make a person feel satisfied and complete. Though, when it spoils it can make you feel worse than you ever thought imaginable. This perplexing nature of love is very much under the microscope in the new snow-covered drama Snow Angels, which focus on various relationships in a small Pennsylvania town.
The film begins with band practice at the local high school. Where we meet the nerdy, yet cool, teenager Arthur (Michael Angarano), as he’s admired from the bleachers by the nerdy, yet attractive, Lila (Olivia Thirlby). After, an unusually emotional speech for a high school band rehearsal given by the band’s leader (Tom Noonan), we hear multiple loud pops, which sound a lot like gunshots. Before the cause of the sounds are revealed, we are transported back in time to weeks earlier, obviously to learn the events that caused these ominous noises.
Next time we see Michael he is at his work at a Chinese restaurant, which also employs the outgoing Barb, surprisingly played by former Strangers with Candy star, Amy Sedaris. Michael’s former babysitter, Annie (Kate Beckinsale), is also on the restaurant’s pay roll. Both Michael and Annie are both experiencing collateral damage from broken relationships. Michael’s parents are beginning to go through a separation, and Annie is already separated from her husband, the mentally unstable Glenn (Sam Rockwell). Annie is also sleeping with Barb’s husband, Nate (Nicky Katt). As you can see, everybody is connected
Michael and Lilia quickly begin to form a relationship, while Annie and Glen’s marriage goes from intensive care to the mortuary. By the end of the film Michael’s parents’ impending divorce appears to be put on hold, and Barb and Nate’s appears to be in jeopardy. There are many poignant and often tragic moments that occur in Snow Angels to explain how these relationships got to their most current state. The most resonating of these examples comes from Glen and Annie; Glen continuously tries to get Annie back, but Annie knows it’s too late, the love that was there has simply gone away. Annie’s refusal to go along with Glen’s attempts to repair their marriage causes Glen to turn to alcohol, which leads to multiple drunken confrontations between Glen and Nate. These scenes are some of the film’s best and hardest to watch, as Nate despite his best intentions makes everything worse.
The effectiveness of Snow Angels hinges on the quality of the film’s performances. The entire cast proves to be up for the challenge. Even the most seemingly questionable casting choices of Nicky Katt and Amy Sedaris prove to be vindicated, as these actors are always believable and usually add a bit of humor. A very memorable moment occurs when Barb confronts Nate about cheating on her. This particular scene wasn’t even in the script, but director David Gordon Green knew if he put these two spectacular improvisational actors together the end result would be great.
The director’s affection for the source material is apparent in the thoughtful construction of many of the film’s most emotional scenes. Green is never in a rush. He always lets the scenes develop properly and the audience observes as these characters try to work things out, some more successful then others.
Snow Angels is a challenging experience, likely to bring back painful memories of love gone bad for many of the audience members. The film does not offer hackneyed and simplistic opinions. Instead, we get a careful examination of the overwhelming power love has over us, capable of being both great and terrible.