- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

Whether you find “Snow Cake” touching or trite may depend on your receptivity to “the small stuff” — you know, those moments when the daily grind comes to a halt while you appreciate the beauty of a glowing sunset, wise words someone once said or a two-hour movie about an autistic woman whose favorite activity is eating snow (really).

There are lots of quietly beautiful images in “Snow Cake,” a film that plays with the idea that the mentally challenged may be better equipped to delight in life’s simple pleasures and repel its miseries than the neuro-typical. Sometimes the flick’s preoccupation with conveying these ideas visually leads it into mawkish territory, but often it makes its points effectively and poignantly.

The story takes place along the quiet roads of Canada and adopts a complementary pace that’s just a notch above a saunter. Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman) is making his way toward Winnipeg, Manitoba, when he reluctantly offers a ride to Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire), a punkish hitchhiker who resembles a spunkier Kelly Osbourne.

Crash — in a moment, she’s gone.

Hoping to offer his condolences and unburden himself of guilt, Alex tracks down her mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver). When he arrives, however, he discovers that she’s autistic and all but incapable of mustering any emotional response to her daughter’s death.

The longer Alex spends with Linda, the more it seems as if he’s the one in need of counseling. Linda’s next-door-neighbor, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), helps him work through some of his issues in the bedroom, but his troubles need more than just sexual healing (particularly because the couple’s chemistry seems a bit lacking from the audience’s perspective).

In the end, Alex will have to decide whether he’s better off staying with Linda and Maggie or continuing on to his original destination.

Mr. Rickman erases some of the damage that appearing in last year’s disastrous “Perfume” may have done, but Miss Weaver gets the biggest and best slice of “Snow Cake.” She’s no Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), nor is this film another “Rain Man” — but, aided by a nice script from first-timer Angela Pell, whose son is autistic, the actress delivers a nuanced portrayal that nails details like blank eyes and childlike wonderment.

If you’re a small-stuff person, these tiny morsels make “Snow Cake” worth watching.


TITLE: “Snow Cake”

RATING: Unrated (Contains strong language and sexual content)

CREDITS: Directed by Marc Evans. Written by Angela Pell.


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