Written by El Articulo Definido
It's a slippery slope when a film tells you in the first act that your protagonist is going to die. If I know within the first 15 minutes that my main character isn't making it, then the entire film becomes about the journey, rather than the destination. At the beginning of American Beauty we know Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham isn't making it, in fact, he's narrating this fact as we're looking at his dead body in the opening shot. Of course that technique wasn't new, having been lifted directly from Sunset Boulevard, but the journey is what excites us about both of those films. Hell, Penn and Teller Get Killed tells you the ending in the title, but their ending is so damn clever, that the closing of that film, mixed with the journey leaves the viewer feeling fulfilled. The same cannot be said of First Snow, starring Guy Pearce and written and directed by Mark Fergus (Children of Men).
From our opening scene Fergus uses his camera and script to indicate that our main character, Jimmy Starks, is a fast talker, not to mention rather vain. When Jimmy's car breaks down, the local mechanic can't fix it until nightfall so he needs to fill time by talking to a psychic who just happens to have trailer parked in the parking lot of the gas station/bar. J.K. Simmons plays our psychic and is brilliant in the role, as always. He is very soft spoken and tells Jimmy of a coming windfall, specifically from Dallas. However, he ends the session quickly when the roads in his visions abruptly stop.
When the windfall of money arrives on the coattails of Dallas, Jimmy panics and needs to know what is coming next. And so we spend our second act with Jimmy trying to draw the lines and find out who would want him dead. He has two suspects, but does one of those suspects become a self-fulfilling prophecy? In a film that talks about fate and roads traveled, so much of Jimmy's road happens due to his own actions upon finding out about his vague, but looming fate.