Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Snow Angels


By Don Hill

Having just watched Snow Angels, I feel that I need to write two separate reviews for this movie.  This movie was simultaneously beautiful and completely maddening.

The first review centers entirely on this film as a storyline and as an acting school from the cast:

The story begins with a high school band practicing on the football field in winter.  The students end the song and then hear several gunshots in the distance.  Thus opens a movie about small-town life and drama.  There are several story arcs, all of which are interconnected among the various characters.

The first and most important arc exists between Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and Glenn (Sam Rockwell).  They are separated, with Annie raising their child alone and taking care of her aging mother.  Glenn appears fine at first, but throughout the story we learn that he has an alcohol problem and had attempted suicide after Annie left him.  Glenn is attempting to reconcile with Annie, telling her that he has a new job and is “born again.” 

Regrettably, I cannot mention much more about Glenn or Annie and their relationship without spoiling the plot.  Annie is seeing somebody but again, I cannot say who as that would also spoil the surprise.  The acting performances of Beckinsale and especially of Rockwell are fantastic. 

The second arc concerns a teenage boy, Arthur (Michael Angarano), one of the members of the band, and his budding relationship with the new girl in school named Lila (Olivia Thirlby).  Their relationship develops over the course of the film from friendship to romance, and is very well done.  Both actors show a depth to the characters that is sometimes missing from teenagers in film.

Arthur and Annie are co-workers now (she baby-sat him as a child), and are joined by Annie’s best friend Barb (very convincingly played by Amy Sedaris) for the third story arc as co-workers at a restaurant in a small town.  Arthur’s parents, who are in the process of getting separated, contribute another story arc.  The father, a college professor, moves out when he no longer has any love for his wife, and Arthur and his mother are left to fend for themselves.


I found it very moving that this film covers the entire cycle of relationships, from teenage romance to abusive relationships to the apathy of long-term relationships.  The movie explores emotions very well and that is one of its strong points.  We witness the collapse of Glenn back into alcoholism, and this contrasts sharply with the romance of the teenagers to create a great mood of highs and lows.  This blend of emotions keeps you on your emotional “toes” for the entire film.

The movie goes in a bad direction as things begin to unravel for the characters until tragedy finally strikes.  The movie is sad and powerful and the conclusion is utterly heart-wrenching, and again, I cannot say anything further without giving the movie away.  Drama in a small town affects almost everyone and this story shows that in a very moving way.

4 ½ / 5 stars


And now for the 2nd review from a film setting standpoint by a viewer with OCD.
When the hell is this movie supposed to be taking place?  Can anybody narrow it down to a decade for me?  This movie is positively schizophrenic in the setting.  The novel is set in the 1970’s, so one would assume that the movie would also be in the 70’s.  Some of the characters act and dress as if they were in the 70’s while others are more at home in the mid 80’s.  Arthur acts and dresses as a teenager from 2006.  Lila looks like a 1950’s TV show character with her horn-rimmed glasses, dated clothing and ancient camera.  At one point Annie makes a call on a flip cell phone, circa early 2000’s.  No character drives a vehicle any newer than the mid 80’s.  Arthur’s father has an elliptical machine in his apartment that is late 90’s technology at the earliest.  There are record players and old jukeboxes in the movie as well, and not a CD player or an iPod in sight.  The theme the band is playing is a high school band rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer (released in 1986).

By the end of this movie I was so thrown out of sorts by this apparent lack of any sort of order or time frame that I was hardly impacted at all by the ending.  I was too busy deciding when this movie was supposed to be taking place to think about the tragedy.  The movie was low budget, sure, but no budget is so low that you add a cell phone conversation to a story set in the 70’s.  Ludicrous.  Whoever was in charge of set design needs beaten and the screenwriter AND the director need to make sure a movie is linear and cohesive before releasing it.  This is a David Gordon Green movie based on a Stewart O’Nan book, not a Terry Gilliam movie based on a Tom Robbins book.

1 / 5 stars


Average: 3 / 5 stars


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