Dir: Marc Evans. UK-Can. 2006. 112mins

With itstale of two misfits who improbably bond in a snowbound small town, Snow Caketakes a surefire formula and delivers a gently crowd-pleasing if somewhatlow-key - comedy-drama.

A sweetlyintrospective execution, it marks a signal departure for British director MarcEvans, cranking the stylistics down several notches after his psychologicalthrillers My Little Eye and Trauma.

Despite alikeable, more than solid, performance by Alan Rickman and a rather showierone from Sigourney Weaver Snow Cake is toomechanically quirky and cosily life-affirming to strike a truly distinctivechord. An occasional spiky edge to its, sometimes, twee gentleness should seeit become a moderate international sell after its premiere as the opening filmat Berlin.

The filmbegins with taciturn Englishman Alex Hughes (Rickman) flying into NorthernOntario, planning to drive to Winnipeg. At a diner he's accosted by a talkativeteenager, Vivienne (an extremely mannered Emily Hampshire), who asks for alift.

Just as Alexis beginning to warm to her abrasively kooky presence, the film throws acurveball by having a truck crash into Alex's car, killing his passenger.

Grief andguilt-stricken, Alex who nurses a painful sorrow of his own - pays a visit toVivienne's mother Linda Freeman (Weaver), who lives alone in the distant townof Wawa.

At first,Linda's tetchy, seemingly unaffected reaction to his presence baffles him, buthe soon learns that she is autistic, and her obsessive-compulsive traits moreor less oblige Alex to move in with her until after Vivienne's funeral.

As he stays,more and more eccentric facets of the sometimes child-like Linda emerge including her love of trampolining and raucous Japanese pop, her passion foreating snow and her habit of feeding bananas to her dog Marilyn.

Unwilling toleave Linda alone until her elderly parents return from holiday, Alex settlesinto her claustrophobic house and meets some of the other Wawaites notablypoliceman Clyde (Allodi), who regards him with suspicion, and a nosy neighbourwho inappropriately presents Linda with a 'bereavement cookie'. On a moredown-to-earth level, Alex hits it off romantically with Linda's no-nonsenseneighbour Maggie (Moss).

Once Alexarrives in Wawa, the film is driven more by character than by narrative, andmaintains a peculiarly claustrophobic atmosphere: the action is largely boundby interiors, broken by faintly postcard-like shots of lakeside landscapes.

Unobtrusivelyfilmed for the most part apart from a brief fantasy sequence towards the end the film is visually most distinctive for its vividly but not obtrusivelydesigned interiors, from Linda's sparse cage of an environment to Maggie'swarm, Japanese-flavoured living quarters.

The film's mainflaw is that Angela Pell's script, though sometimes pleasantly acidic, oftenlays on the quirkiness with a trowel. Herself the mother of an autistic child,Pell clearly knows her subject, but Linda's abundance of whimsical obsessionsprovides far too much opportunity for Weaver to overplay the part, in a waythat although boldly out ofkeeping with her previous roles often feels uncomfortably ingratiating.

Snow Cake cantry far too hard to charm its audience with its droll or poetic conceits: thescene where Alex and Linda play Scrabble with invented words, and Lindaimprovises a superhero story to illustrate one such coining, is especiallymawkish.

Offsettingall this preciousness is the dignified dry reserve of Rickman, who lends hischaracter a note of weary sanity and makes him plausible - although it's hardto believe in the melodramatic and crushingly coincidental back story that Alexis lumbered with.

So far ason-screen chemistry goes, Rickman seems happier opposite Moss than oppositeWeaver, and indeed Moss's sane, spiky Maggie is one of the film's plus points.

While Evansfails to draw any special subtleties out from his material, his generally mutedexecution at least keeps the whimsy within manageable bounds.

Otherwise,Snow Cake is the sort of sweetly eccentric small-town story reminiscent bothof the snowbound TV series Northern Exposure and of Percy Adlon's 1991 Alaskafilm Salmonberries - that feels as much Scandinavian as Canadian.

A, sometimes,obtrusive mainstream-rock soundtrack sees Welsh director Evans patrioticallysupporting bands from back home, including Stereophonics and Super FurryAnimals.



FortissimoFilm Sales

Gina Carter

Andrew Eaton
Niv Fichman

Robert Jones
Henry Normal

Angela Pell

Steve Cosens



Main cast
Alan Rickman
James Allodi