Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)
This is an elegant, haunting film. It takes place in a quiet town and explores the lives of several characters, before and after the tragic event that the film centres on. In both story and tone it is similar to Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter. There is a touching realism found in the situations and dialogue, which in turn allows for exposition to be handled with ease and invisibility. We get to know each character slowly, and with a minimal amount of drama, at first. This establishes them as real, unique people, with a perfect balance kept between quirk and genuine humanity. Everything flows so naturally and none of the relationships feel forced or underdeveloped. Our protagonist, played by Sam Rockwell, has an awkward depression that surrounds him and follows him into everything he tries to do. His elaborate, dark back-story is revealed without any rush, as bits and pieces of information are dropped at opportune times in easily digestible portions.
Green’s directing is remarkably restrained and observational. He knows exactly when to place emphasis on style. The beautiful wide cinematography is unobtrusive and offers a consistent, bleak setting. This is matched perfectly by the minimalist, moody score, which maximises the dramatic sequences without being so forward as to feel manipulative. Despite the preference for measured development over action, the pace still feels brisk as it jumps calmly between characters and subplots, never dragging for too long in a single place. An overwhelming amount of tension is built up within the scenes of distress, which are gripping without compromising on the overall tone, especially as the film seeps further and further into a deep, hopeless depression. Despite the shattering tragedy that takes place as the main focus, we are still able to experience a touching relationship which blooms between the two younger characters, who share a great chemistry that progresses into intimacy. Snow Angels is a sad, down-to-earth examination of both the darkest and the lightest moments people go through, handled with an innate care and realism.