Alex (Alan Rickman) is driving to Winnipeg for a special reunion when he begrudgingly accepts feisty young Vivienne (Emily Hampshire), as a hitching passenger on her way to her mum's house. She tries to pierce his self-protective silence, but just as she is starting to make headway, a truck smashes into their car and Vivienne is killed. Guilt-ridden and wishing to offer his condolences and apologies, Alex seeks out Vivienne's mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver), but is taken aback to discover she is autistic. Her calm reaction to her daughter's death is not what Alex expected; nor does he expect any of what follows. Linda persuades Alex to stay until after the funeral and during the few days he has, he has a liberating affair with Linda's neighbour, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), a passionate woman who discovers the demons that haunt Alex.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Any synopsis of this movie's storyline will be incomplete because what the written word can never duplicate is the sense of an emotion expressed on the face of a character on screen, from its beginning through to its full flowering. Snow Cake is blessed with a wonderful screenplay as its starting point, but it is executed with such a deft set of performances, and with such meticulous direction, that it surpasses its premise.
Alan Rickman's Alex is a haunting, melancholy character, but livened by a sense of dry humour that is a part of English-ness. Despite the unique circumstances of his character, he is our point of view into the unusual triangle that forms when he arrives at Wawa - Canada's equivalent, perhaps of a country town like Narrandera, except Wawa has lots of snow in winter. There's Alex the outsider, with a specific stain on his past; Linda with a disability that has some powerful positives, and Maggie, who has a nurturing spirit and open arms, - and a character flaw of which she is all too well aware. They are all wounded people, one way or the other, but Alex has a journey to make that satisfies the needs of audiences.
Sigourney Weaver's performance as the autistic Linda is astonishing; I am rarely convinced by actors trying to play characters with such disabilities, but Weaver nails it with a wonderfully gutsy characterisation - and I mean gutsy as in the character is gutsy.
As Maggie, the sensuous neighbour who has gentlemen callers these days, and a broken marriage behind her, Carrie-Anne Moss is superbly multi-dimensional; she's at once warm, decent and caring, and totally selfish when it comes to men and relationships.
Wonderful, too, albeit all too briefly, is Emily Hampshire as the daughter tragically killed. In the brief amount of screen time she has, Hampshire creates a remarkably vibrant and complex, interesting young woman.
But there's so much more to this film than could be written here; each scene is invested with emotional payloads, striking observations and a wry humour that makes it possible to label the film as upbeat, despite its contents.
Review by Louise Keller:
Everyone and everything is surprising in this arresting film whose heart is as warm as its setting is cold. The circumstances may be tragic, but the outcome is miraculous as we discover that the pathway to salvation is as unexpected as the weather. Sigourney Weaver's marvelous performance as an autistic woman trapped in a bubble of childlike joy is perfectly countered by Alan Rickman's inhibited outcast, who inexplicably finds himself grieving for strangers. Uplifting and surprising, it's a wonderful film in which world-weary melancholy dances with innocent bliss.
"You look like a guy who needs to talk," the chatty girl with purple and pink streaks blurts to Alan Rickman's unsociable Alex, as he reads his self-help book in the corner of a small-town diner. While first appearances may often be deceptive, Emily Hampshire's Vivienne is spot-on when picking the loneliest man in the room. Their brief encounter is unexpected as are the consequences, when Alex finds himself in a house of organised chaos, with snow domes, bunk beds and shoes that are neatly lined up at the door. There's a dog that eats bananas and Sigourney Weaver's Linda (who lives there) gets her kicks by eating snow. Her neighbour (Carrie-Anne Moss's Maggie) gets her Darjeeling by Fedex and is not shy to admit she likes her sex before dinner. Linda's logic is disarming. Even the most complicated scenarios are reduced to simplicity through her eyes. She plays scrabble like she lives her life - by her own rules. How can you question the validity of her fabricated word 'dazlious', when its sublime meaning is described in such coherent and meaningful terms?
Hampshire's role as Vivienne may not have much screen time, but she leaves a lasting impression as the catalyst that brings Alex and Linda together. Angela Pell's screenplay is fearless as it skilfully weaves together the complexities of the characters under director Marc Evan's sensitive direction. The impossible seems to be the norm as we become enveloped in the film's engrossing reality. It's dazlious.
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ALAN RICKMAN INTERVIEW
by Nick Roddick
SNOW CAKE (M)
CAST: Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Hampshire, James Allodi, Callum Keith Rennie, David Fox, Jayne Eastwood, Julie Stewart, Selina Cadell
PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton, Gina Carter, Niv Fichman, Jessica Daniel
DIRECTOR: Marc Evans
SCRIPT: Angela Pell
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steve Cosens
EDITOR: Marguerite Arnold
MUSIC: Broken Social Scene
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Matthew J. Davies
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 2, 2007