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United Kingdom/Canada 2006
Directed by
Marc Evans
112 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars

Snow Cake

Synopsis: A grief-stricken man gives a lift to a young woman and is drawn into the strangely comic world of her mother who offers a new perspective on loss and recovery.

Young writer, Vivienne (Emily Hampshire), sits down next to Alex (Alan Rickman) in a diner because he looks like the loneliest man in the room and might have a story to tell. Although he’s just got out of prison for killing a man the most interesting story in his life so far has only just begun. After Alan begrudgingly gives Vivienne a lift and they are in an accident he visits her mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver) to deliver a message. Linda’s eccentric, disconnected behaviour draws him inside and she persuades him to stay for a few days. While Alan is fixed firmly in past grief Linda is immutably located in the present. Her next door neighbour, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), completes the triangle by offering Alan some hope for the future.

Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver are wonderful. His grief is deeply etched into his face and body language both of which change as he begins to recover a sense of who he really is. Her different way of being in the world is marked by a child-like fascination with things and with an abrupt honesty that forces the people around her to confront different perspectives. Her character’s inner landscape, like the far side of the moon, is always something to wonder at. The effect of Emily Hampshire’s brief appearance lingers over everything in the film, leaving a memory that all the characters are changed by.

Despite its tragic undertones, Snow Cake is light, crisp and sweet. Mental disorder, idiosyncrasy, laughter, sex and pop songs all play a part as against the background of a cold landscape the camera lingers over small moments. Many of the diverse flavours mix wonderfully, revealing different aspects of the story’s message. A few others seem discordant, like the soundtrack’s mixture of muted environmental soundscapes and vibrant pop tunes and the relationship between Alex and the improbably good-looking next-door neighbour, Maggie is too glib to swallow.

Yet overall, Snow Cake is a finely-tuned comedy with a lot of heart, interlaced with a moving rendition of pain and loss. Thankfully, it finds a redeeming lightness to lift the characters (and ourselves) into the future.




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