Written by Caballero Oscuro
Snow Angels drifts along aimlessly for its first hour, seemingly content to follow the daily lives of small-town losers without revealing anything in the way of a meaningful plot. It’s not until a shocking event at the midpoint that the film takes on any kind of substance, at which point it begins to emulate the similarly themed The Sweet Hereafter. That’s lofty company to keep, but the film’s delay in getting to that pivotal moment ultimately dooms it to fall far short.
Kate Beckinsale stars as a young mother separated from her loser husband played by Sam Rockwell. Their characters have a daughter together, but really seem to have nothing else in common. In fact, in the absence of any plot during the protracted introductory hour, viewers will likely spend the time wondering how Rockwell’s lowlife character could have ever landed the highly attractive Beckinsale. It’s a real stretch to accept Beckinsale as a struggling small-town waitress in spite of her best efforts to fit in with the locals.
There’s also a worthless subplot involving a high school boy (Michael Angarano) who later plays an important but momentary part in the principal plot device. Writer/director David Gordon Green attempts to integrate him with a backstory involving childhood babysitting by Beckinsale as well as a co-worker gig at her restaurant, but ultimately his tale seems like a needless accessory. To his sole credit, the boy does strike up a romance with a fellow student, perhaps giving the film its only optimistic note.
As the community rallies together to grieve their common loss and its star characters begin to completely unravel, the film finally becomes a moving and highly engaging work. Its closing 45 minutes are a sobering examination of the effects of tragedy on a community where everyone knows everyone else’s business, intricately portraying the disastrous ripples caused by one brief event. It’s during this time that Beckinsale and Rockwell are both permitted to shine, with Rockwell’s character especially going through his own intriguing version of the stages of grief. It’s regrettable that the film takes so long to get good, and there’s certainly no upbeat subject matter here, but viewers willing to slog through the overlong introduction will eventually be rewarded with a memorable and moving story.
Snow Angels contains no bonus features, just the film.