“Snow Angels”: The Cost of Order, the Beauty of Tragedy

Snow Angels

It’s not often that I walk away from a movie respecting every party involved more than I did walking in. I can’t pick out one thing about this movie that I wasn’t at least highly impressed with.

Snow Angels is the first David Gordon Green film I’ve seen and now I want to see the rest. He’s a filmmaker that doesn’t only understand the necessity of storytelling, but understands film technique to it’s core. I want to start with the story but to give away even a modicum of information would be to destroy the lushness of the characters and their lives in this film.

Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and Glenn (Sam Rockwell) have a child, a girl. Something happens that upsets an already very delicate balance in their relationship and the world around them crumbles and reacts in kind. This movie is about the characters and this fractured world they live in. It’s about trying finding that place where you can say life is normal again, and for some that moment will never come again.

As a film student you’re taught that the first 10 pages should represent the character’s normal lives, the rest of the movie is about them trying to find order again. Green does this with the eye of a hawk, and the scalpel of a surgeon. Everything is organic, nothing is forced as these characters in this microcosm scratch and claw there way around each other trying to find their way back to where they began.

He knows how to use this screenwriting technique to his advantage, knowingly so. A high school band, trying to stay in formation, is yelled at by their over zealous teacher about creating order. About knowing what it is that you want to do and doing it. This is followed by two distant gun shots. Everything from there leads us back to those gunshots. Green shows us the cost of order. The cost of needing to have balance.

There are two brilliantly edited sequences, that are actually the same. They appear in the beginning and the end of the film. This is the normalcy we seek, the repetition in our days that makes us feel comfortable. And the final shot while quiet, speaks loudly saying that even though we can walk around as if nothing has happened, something has happened, and it has affected someone. Some decisions can’t be undone.

There’s a shot in the sequence I’ve spoken of in which as it fades out we catch something just begin to move into frame. It’s an incredible choice to make. Simple and subtle, but it shows the filmmaker’s desire to show us something unique, to capture the world in a way few still know how to.

Sam Rockwell continues to find new ways to absolutely blow me away as an actor. The guy is freakin heart breaking as a father who’s trying to find forgiveness in his soul for another. Who just wants to connect to the people he loves. Tell me you don’t almost cry when he’s dancing with two strangers in a bar.

Amy Sedaris is hilarious, but too real to be just another supporting actor or caricature.

Kate Beckinsale plays flawed better than I’ve seen anyone in recent years. It takes true bravery to play someone who slowly becomes apathetic to the world around her. And she’s never been as beautiful, playing so fragile.

Juxtaposed to the Glenn and Annie story is one that focuses on the budding romance of two high school kids. The two stories don’t have a lot to do with each other, besides the fact that the characters know one another, and are affected by what happens in each others lives. And they learn from the tragedies of one another. They take those tragedies and they grow.

It’s beautiful and it’s sad. Poetic if I may be so bold. A movie that will probably live with me until the end of the year and deserves accolades upon accolades, that is if anyone else has gone out to see it.

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7 Responses to ““Snow Angels”: The Cost of Order, the Beauty of Tragedy”

  1. Paul Martin Says:

    This film screened at Melbourne International Film Festival last year, and was one of the highlights for me. I don’t know why it hasn’t had a theatrical release because, like you, I pretty much found it a compelling film. It’s got names (and wasn’t it great to see Rockwell playing it serious?), it’s got a great story and it oozes with quality.

    It’s the only film by this guy I’ve seen, but I’m looking forward to Pineapple Express, which has a release here in September.

  2. everydayman Says:

    Thanks A lot. Really.

    I kinda like movies like this too, and you just made me download one. By the way, have you seen the movie “crash”? It’s also a good one.

    These are the kinds of movie where who the actors are don’t really influence the whole essence of the story. Even if you let a total stranger play the role, as long as he plays it well, the story would still be that good.

    Thanks again man. And thank God for bloggers.

    Thanks for the link to your blog. This blog world is quite incredible. A place where we can wax intellectual with like-mindeds. I have seen “Crash”, while I don’t think it’s perfect, it’s certainly stirring.

  3. everydayman Says:

    http://3critical.wordpress.com

  4. Phillip Says:

    If anyone wishes to see more serious Sam Rockwell check out “Joshua”. It’s kind of like “The Omen” minus the supenatural. Not a perfect film, but chilling, and Rockwell is great.

    I have a write up here.

  5. Kevin J Olson Says:

    Great review. I Just saw this film last weekend and I am still trying to wrap my head around it so I can write a proper review of my own.

    I really hope you seek out Green’s other films. For my money he is one of the most exciting young American filmmakers working today. I would place him alongside Paul Thomas Anderson, Spike Jonze, David Russell, and Wes Anderson.

    “George Washington” (his first film) remains his best, and “Undertow” is a thriller that exists outside of the conventions of the chase movie. “All the Real Girls” is a sweet and sad story, think “Snow Angels”, just more rural, which is where Green loves to examine characters.

    What I loved about “Snow Angels” is that it was his first attempt at the domestic drama and he hit it out of the park. It reminded me of another great domestic drama about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters…”Little Children”, unloved by some, but I found it to be one of the better films of 2007.

    Great review.

  6. Kevin J Olson Says:

    Also…if you haven’t seen the red band trailer for “Pineapple Express” yet…you will see David Gordon Green’s attempt at the genre picture. More specifically, a buddy action film with lots of explosions, weed, and Seth Rogen. He worked on the film with Judd Apatow…should be…uh, interesting.

  7. Phillip Says:

    Kevin,

    Any comment here is a welcome comment, especially when you like the review! I’ll be digging through his movies soon enough, thankfully there’s only a handful up to this point. “Pineapple Express” is going to be great – but I won’t watch the preview.

    I thought “Little Children” was one of the best movies of 2007 as well.

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