4.5 Stars
Year Released: 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 106 minutes
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“Snow Angels” opens with a virtuosic montage of a high school marching band trying to satisfy their grumpy conductor. The whole dynamics of high school can be seen as the football team runs drills and a pretty girl watches the band from the sidelines. But the unmistakable sound of a tragedy abruptly cuts off the conductor’s lecture.

David Gordon Green’s cinematic adaptation of Stewart O’Nan’s novel poetically studies the divide between innocence and tragedy, discovery and disappointment. With a deep understanding of his characters, Green has crafted a film that’s devastating and uplifting without sounding a false note.

The film weaves together stories of young love and betrayed love. The marching band member at the center of the opening scene, Arthur (Michael Angarano) copes with the divorce of his parents while finding romance with a new girl in school, Lily (Tricia Farr). He works at a Chinese restaurant with his former babysitter, Annie (Kate Beckinsale). She’s having an affair with a married man while her mentally disturbed ex-husband, Glenn (Sam Rockwell), struggles to rebuild his relationship with her and their daughter.

After a rough divorce, Glenn has been trying to reclaim his life. Rockwell expertly portrays a man struggling to clean up his own mess. He may have gotten his life back together and quit drinking, but it’s clear that his psyche is still fragile—keen to spiral back into chaos when the first sign of bad news gives him an excuse. Beckinsale plays off her costar nicely as a frustrated mother who can’t cope with the responsibility of ensuring the mental health of a man she no longer loves.

The unknown actors are the real discovery. The heart of the story lies not in the tragedy of Annie and Glenn, but in the parallel story of young lovers finding their way, and Angarano and Farr firmly establish themselves as talented upcoming stars. Farr gives Lily the kind of enthusiasm for photography and life that makes it hard not to fall in love with her.

Angarano cycles between the exuberant joy of Arthur’s feelings for Lily and reality-check conflicts with his father (Griffin Dunne), whom he fears is dishonest about his decision to leave the family. Green’s direction and details, like Arthur’s pink hat, offer an even deeper connection with the character. Arthur’s conversations with his mother (Jeanetta Arnette) are sweet and understanding, not smothered in the intense angst of most teen-parent relationships movies.

Green and cinematographer Tim Orr’s camera follows the characters with cautious curiosity, happy for their triumphs and fearful of their troubles. The fluid movement tries to pull the characters along, even if they occasionally need to stop and be pulled out of frame. As the film builds towards the conclusion hinted at in that opening scene, it captures all the hope and worries that come with being human.

Posted on January 28, 2007 in Reviews by

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