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One you won't easily forget,
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This review is from: Snow Cake [DVD]  (DVD)
Not only is this one of the best ever (and indeed few) portrayals of autism I've ever seen, it is also, in my humble opinion, one of the best performances of Alan Rickman. I love this film so much in fact that, since having it as an addition to my 'Alan Rickman Collection' (alright, obsessive, I know), it has been my most watched film of his.
Surprisingly (for an indie film) it did make it to our mainstream TV screens a couple of years ago (albeit rather late at night I seem to remember) but, otherwise, this tends to be a rather little known film to those outside of the 'Rickmaniac' (Alan Rickman fans) circle. And that's a great shame as it really deserves to be seen. It is, first and foremost, a rather quirky, yet sensitive and wry-humoured little film; less of a melodrama and more of an observation I feel. All credit should be given to director Marc Evans for his sensitivity in the handling of it all.
Sigourney Weaver gives an outstanding performance as the autistic Linda, struggling to make sense of the world (or perhaps better accepting it than most) after her only daughter Vivienne's death in a car crash where Alan Rickman's 'Alex Hughes' was the innocent driver. A somewhat shy, lonely and introverted character, Alex is struggling with demons of his own having only recently been freed from prison, for murder no less. (Can never quite understand if he was imprisioned in Canada or the UK; not that it really matters much I guess.) Like the Canadian snow that surrounds him, he begins to thaw - over the course of the few days he finds himself in the company of Linda and her small-town community. The unexpected experience of all this entails (an experience not through his own choice, I hasten to add, but rather through circumstances) seems to ease the path along his journey back to the 'real world' and clearly helps him to move on. His brief 'fling' with neighbour Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), though perhaps a little far-fetched, can be forgiven, and even understood. After all the poor man (starved of decent human company for so long) goes round to Maggie's for slightly more than just his evening meal, seeing as he's under the impression that Maggie is "a lady of the night" (Maggie's words.) I actually found the scene where he discovers she's not infact that kind of lady, and that therefore she doesn't want paying, to be quite touching, even with its humourous overtone. Who else but Alan Rickman could make such a scenario - and indeed subject - seem tender and sweet and pretty much melt your heart?
I have read other reviews of this film where it is suggests it is a little 'contrived' (aren't all films/stories for that matter?) However, it is an entertaining piece (perhaps looking as if it will be somewhat gloomy/tiresome from the outset) that holds your attention without the need for special effects, violence, or anything else much other than good acting and an insight into someone else's world.
Somehow there is something 'cosy' about this film (or perhaps that's just the effect of the constant snow outside) and, whilst not being side-splittingly funny, it presents something that rings true with its subtle, gentle humour, most of which is brought about by Linda's unconventional views and lack of inhibition. No doubt many will watch (including myself) and chuckle as we wish we could get away with some of things she says: It is certainly not a film that makes you feel sorry for the fact that its central character has autism. So it's nice to have such a positive, refreshing view.
However, I do have to say here, and emphasise, that it really is a 'positive' take on the subject of autism, and I am sure there are many who feel it doesn't portray the downside for those who suffer from what is all too often a really debilitating condition which effects not only them but those around them. Then again, and equally, it is nice to show that it doesn't have to be all 'doom and gloom' and that for some autistics - obviously Linda is one of the lucky ones in that she is able to live independantly - making the best of life is still an option. I think the humour of this film keeps that thought in the foreground.
It is also worth remembering that this film is not just about autism, or indeed the character of Linda, but also Alex's 'journey' and his coming back to his old life ("I'm beginning to like this: Being with you [to Maggie], being with Linda, being with myself ...")
If you can catch this gem of a movie, do so. It's a completely different take on a subject often over looked and still grouped together with that really forbidden one of 'mental health'. It may at first seem like an insignificant and uninspired little film - but, if you're brave enough to give it a go, I think it will be a very pleasant surprise, and one you won't easily forget.
(Review first written: October 2009)