Snow Cake - Review
Review by Veronica Blake
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary By Director/Producer; Making Of Documentary; Deleted Scenes.
SIGOURNEY Weaver felt she had finally arrived in 1988 when she was nominated for two Oscars for both Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl. But both ended up winning neither. “It was the first time in history somebody had lost twice in one night. I felt like there should be a loser’s tent.”
Her stunning performance in Snow Cake, in which she portrays an autistic woman who befriends a character played by Alan Rickman in the Canadian outback after her daughter is killed in a tragic accident, reveals her as one of the finest actresses of her generation. Far from being in the loser’s tent on Oscar night, she deserves to be on the stage collecting an Oscar.
Weaver is one of the few actresses who brings intelligence to a role. Now in her late 50s, she refuses to prescribe to Hollywood’s uniquely paranoid brand of the beauty myth. She’s refused to jump on the Silicone and Botox bandwagon and doesn’t think it’s attractive to have a taut, expressionless face with a 60-year-old body.
Throughout her career, Weaver has always been drawn to women who weren’t comfortable with the world, who are isolated because of their great passion for something. In which case, she was perfectly cast in the role of an autistic woman who experiences life on a very heightened plane.
Rarely has a film with its gem of a script, captured so sensitively the condition of autism. Those small releases of emotion that happen in real life that you notice in a well-written script.
Watching Snow Cake, you realise that autism could be an apt metaphor for the human condition in the 21st Century.
There’s something uniquely awesome about a human being who sees life as a child, and is so present in the moment, looking to live in the moment. Today, many try to seek this state of enlightenment through Yoga, Hiking, Buddhism, Pilates, Kabbalah, yet here is a condition that is englightened.
Having researched the role, Weaver developed more than an understanding of the condition, she also developed a deep respect for people with autism, inspired by Pell’s script which does not oversimplify the situation or what the person is up against.
Though there are funny moments and a lot of joy, you will not leave the cinema underestimating the pain of what it must be like to have autism.
Apart from Rain Man, there have not been many films on the subject of autism. Unlike Hoffman, who did a brilliant specific interpretation, Weaver manages to portray a character rather than a condition.
Snow Cake, unlike Rain Man, is so much more than a film about autism, it’s a film about friendship, trust, snow, acceptance, obsessive behaviour and, above all, about the power of friendship, no mater how eccentric, to change our lives and heal our hearts.
Alan Rickman gives the performance of his career. He shines in the role of Alex, a tight-lipped Englishman who arrives in Northern Ontario, on his way to meet the woman with whom he’s had a son.
At a gas-stop he meets an unconventional 19-year-old hitch-hiker, Vivien, who bullies him into giving her a lift to her hometown. When the car is hit by a truck on the outskirts of her home town, she dies instantly.
Alex finds himself, for the second time in his life, grieving for someone he never knew. Shocked and stranded in Wawa, he is drawn to seek out Vivien’s mother to talk to her in person about the fate of her daughter. He soon releases that the woman who opens the door is no ordinary mother. Linda is an adult autistic. He becomes increasingly involved with her life and her community to which she feels complete indifference, because of her condition.
Linda, in turn, becomes attached to Alex and what he can do for her. When he finally gets back on the road, he has exorcised his inner demons and the town he leaves behind has also been transformed.
The melting snow becomes a beautiful metaphor for how each character’s memories remain intact but are changed forever by their experiences with each other.
As Rickman’s character, Alex, slowly drives out of town, the snow is melting on the trees captured beautifully by the camera in the early morning sunlight. You can see that this buttoned up, repressed character who arrived one week before has melted, just like the snow has.
In many ways, this film is more about thaw than snow. It’s about a character who’s cool inside and is thawed out by his experience in the place.
It’s clear that Rickman absorbed a lot about autism, it’s idocyncracies and ‘conventions’. He came into the film purposefully having done no research on the subject, trying to keep himself as ignorant as possible.
Alex knocks on the door, and it’s opened by a woman who’s autistic, he doesn’t know that until someone puts a name to it. It’s just that unpredictable behaviour that Weaver is doing brilliantly.
He recognizes things in the rules of autism which are familiar to all of us, obsessive or repitious behaviour.
The three leads – Weaver, Rickman and Carrie-Anne Moss – don’t so much act as live their roles. There’s no agenda. No overwrought emotion, just real – and real doesn’t have to come with great gusts of feeling.
It’s those small releases of emotion that happen in real life that you notice in a well-written script..
Snow Cake is going to be an education to audiences, but it’s also hugely entertaining, very funny and touching as well. You’ll laugh and yet be moved to tears, always the sign of a truly great film.
Running time: 1hr 45mins