Snow Angels

Sundance Film Festival 2007 (World Premiere Dramatic Competition)–After the artistic and commercial failure of “Undertow,” David Gordon Green is back on terra firma with “Snow Angels,” his first film based on a previously published literary source and set north of the Mason Dixon.

Green's fourth feature is not at compelling as his debut, “George Washington” (still his best feature), or sophomore effort, “All Real Girls,” but it continues to display a unique cinematic sensibility that's at once grim and lyrical. For a director of his age, Green's movies are considerably mature in both subject and style.

New yarn juxtaposes three couples in adjacent stages of life, linked by powerful relationships. Arthur (Michael Angarano) is in high school, plays in the marching band and is pursued romantically by pretty/nerdy Lila (Olivia Thirlby). Annie (Kate Beckinsale) used to baby-sit Arthur, but now works in the same Chinese restaurant. Though their lives are pulling them in much different directions, it clear that they care about each otherand more.

As Lilas affection for Arthur grows, so does the ardor with which she tries to express it. At the same time, Arthur must go through the ordeal and pain involved in his parents (Griffin Dunne and Jeannetta Arnette) splitting up.

Annie faces her own problems and demons, including the end of her marriage to Glenn (Sam Rockwell), a man who used to drink but has since found Jesus Christ. For his part, Glenn lives with his parents while trying to rebuild his life by getting a job selling carpets. He also tries to re-connect with Annie through visiting their very young daughter.

The title may or may not be ironic, though, clearly, the tone of the film is in stronger harmony with the first than the second word of the moniker: “Snow Angels” is a decidedly dark and harsh wintry feature.

The film's three dissected bonds are meant to convey three phases of emotional relationships. Hence, the youthful relationship depicts a high-schooler and his first romance with a girl who's a photographer. The other two are about broken families. The second bond applies to Arthur's disenchanted parents, who are going through divorce, while the third is an anatomy of a marriage that's “almost” but not quite over yet.

The acting of the entire ensemble is uniformly accomplished, and it's a pleasant surprise to see both Sam Rockwell, who has done mostly comedies, and particularly Kate Beckinsale, who has specialized in trashy Hollywood flicks, deviating from previous roles, showing impressive range.