Directed by: David Gordon Green / 2008
Within the first five minutes of "Snow Angels" you're signaled that the film isn't going to end well. The weeks then turn back to a close-knit community who begin to expose layers, unraveling for nearly two hours to that bitter finale that you perceived coming. The underrated Sam Rockwell shines another performance as a man caught between the cross and the tavern of a separated marriage, cheating wife, a daughter he rarely sees, misguided inner direction and a born-again life that he just can't get the hang of. His dog seems to be the only thing stable in his life that he can connect with and he might as well have "Love/Hate" tattooed across his knuckles (which coincidentally end up looking like they do after a night of drunken tree punching). His "Glen" is the definition of sour and sweet, and a great supporting cast keeps the punches coming (Kate Beckinsale, Amy Sedaris, Nicky Katt...). Working at a restaurant with Glen's wife (Beckinsale) is an awkward high school boy (played well by Michael Angarano) whose own troubles at home help balance the story, brings some heart and also takes you through some of the trappings of teenage wasteland and small town life, cliche territory though it's handled well here. As the players plow through life's drifts, more layers of the small town's criss-cross come apart and even try to come back together as tragedy looms. The reliable and consistent David Gordon Green ("George Washington", "All The Real Girls", "Undertow") helms another solid mediation on the dark undercurrents of middle-class man, coming of age, forgiveness and the desperate clinging for momentary happiness that we all seem to have in us. He's a gifted talent and can create a compelling, artful story on a shoe string budget and I look forward to following his young career take off. I see the foundation of his first four films to be a small treasure for future fans to discover, though I would love to see him broaden his already developed skills as he has even greater things brimming and could eventually be a household name. But, it's no wonder he took a stab at the recent action-comedy of "Pineapple Express" after cranking out a four-for-four of solid moody broody art in a row. Though just like "Undertow", a stronger first half powers over the second with "Snow Angels" and some things don't quite fully develop and flesh for me. However, the film lives up to it's definition as a human made depression and it doesn't peter-out by any means as the characters, situations and community all feel very absorbed and aren't cheapened, decked-out or exaggerated like the usual crop of independent film dramas. It's just the suspense in waiting on the final act to polish off something you already know is coming that can dampen the mood by the time the credits call the dog to come home.