SNOW ANGELS captivates while ensnaring you in a very deeply distressing and excruciating morose story, which is thankfully imbued with superior performances by an amazing, magnificent cast (who I cannot imagine would have, even as professional actors, found it very easy to "shake off" after completing SNOW ANGELS!)
The always engrossing Sam Rockwell plays Glenn, who we see early on is not merely emotionally tormented, but is actually struggling with serious mental illness. (For the Sam Rockwell "uninitiated", this is an actor who is barely recognizable as the same person from one film to the next, as he seems to "become" the character he is portraying...the mark of the very finest caliber actor). Annie, played by Kate Beckinsdale (who continues to enlighten as to just what a truly gifted actress she is in each role she takes on & this is certainly one of the boldest steps in her career) plays the single-mother to her estranged husband, Glenn & their 4-year old daughter.
That is one story-line & that is the dour & cheerless one. The co-story line revolves around a high-schooler, Arthur, in the school's marching band, whose parents are also in the midst of separating, while simultaneously Arthur is falling for his first-love, Lila, played by a charming, vivacious young actress who brings her own sunlight to this ominous, woeful tale set against a dreary cold, grey, gloomy snowcapped small town background. The common link here is that Annie & Arthur work in a local Chinese Restaurant and Annie was Arthur's babysitter, in his formative years.
Glenn is trying to rebuild his life and have a relationship with his young daughter, while at the same time, trying, unsuccessfully, to win back his estranged wife Annie, who has a restraining order against Glenn, doesn't want to see him, nor feels he can be trusted with his daughter. In almost every scene, we see Glenn, showing up hopeful, trying to be patient, gallant and kind, despite Annie's flying into rages that he continues showing up in her life, which, eventually, wears Glenn's efforts down, as each time he's becoming more spiritless, despondent and disengaged, yet also more threatening, culminating at a point where he completely dissembles. As things are unraveling even further for this family, we see the opposite effects taking place for Arthur with Lila, and ultimately with his parents, too, as they are seeming to be trying to patch things up between themselves, for both their own sakes & their child's. And, therein lies the juxtaposition of SNOW ANGELS...
SNOW ANGELS is actually a very in-depth character study of the human psyche...in all its' frailities and strengths, the effects of which ripple throughout, and depending on which, can either bolster a family or tear it asunder. The unwavering underlying message, depicted by the parallel stories, is to show firsthand, how forgiveness heals, not only yourself, but those around you; your loved ones and how hanging on to resentments will have the exact opposite effect, potentially leading to an entire family's complete break, breakdown(s) and, ultimately, destruction & heartbreaking tragedy.
Not a story for the faint of heart..it's actually quite grueling to watch & told with spartan unadornment. However, once you've begun, you can't help but be drawn in and feel empathy for these characters & are hoping, against hope that all will work out for everyone. SNOW ANGELS is a seminal film which should probably be shown in Psych courses. The director/screenwriter David Gordon Green lies everything bare & his choosing to tell this story with a parallel story within a story, is an ingenious concept, for without that, there would seemingly be no hope for the human condition, but he strives to show that indeed there is & we can either find it, or continuously shoot ourselves in our own foot, getting in our own way & the potential outcomes with whichever is the chosen path.