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IFC presents
Snow Cake (2006)

"I have to tell you, I just got out of prison."
- Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: October 25, 2007

Stars: Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie-Anne Moss
Other Stars: Emily Hampshire, James Allodi, Callum Keith Rennie, David Fox, Jayne Eastwood, Julie Stewart, Selina Cadell
Director: Marc Evans

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:52m:14s
Release Date: September 11, 2007
UPC: 796019804806
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- BB+B C-

DVD Review

Films about the mentally challenged always tow a fine line between being moving character studies and over the top exploitation films. Overall, the number of both extremes is probably pretty close to equal throughout the course of film history. One of the more recent efforts is the 2006 Canadian film, Snow Cake, a melodrama that focuses on adult autism. With a solid cast and up-and-coming director, this little-seen indie effort gets a chance at a wider audience thanks to IFC's new DVD release.

Alex (Alan Rickman) is fresh out of prison, trudging his way through snow-covered Canada, when he meets Vivienne (Emily Hampshire). Instantly drawn to this young, spunky, aspiring writer, Alex agrees to give her a ride home. Following a horrible tragedy, Alex is devastated, making his way to Vivienne's home and finding her autistic mother, Linda (Sigourney Weaver) there. After the initial shock of Linda's condition, Alex decides to stick around for a while and help her out with the day-to-day activities that are such a struggle given her condition. Along the way he meets a beautiful neighbor, Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), and the two have an instant connection, making it even more difficult when the time comes for Alex to move on.

Despite a slow, meandering opening reel, a true shocker of a sequence sets a perfect tone for the rest of the film. Instantly following this surprise, it becomes crystal clear just how important the plodding, initial scenes are to the rest of the picture; a sly, interesting directorial tactic. The story is weak at times, but this is still a powerful character study that tugs at our heartstrings on many occasions. Much of this can be attributed to the acting, though, with the always-reliable Rickman serving as the film's centerpiece. Usually, films depicting the mentally challenged focus on that character, but Weaver's Linda is on screen roughly half as much as Rickman. She makes the most of this time, though, pulling off the most important feat of preventing Linda from becoming a clichéd caricature. Moss doesn't have a whole lot to do, but she helps make Maggie's relationship with Alex surprisingly believable.

British director Marc Evans seems a bit out of his element, given that two of his best known films, Trauma and the underrated My Little Eye are twisty thrillers, but he does a solid job with this rare dip in the drama pool. If he could have only had a deeper, more realized story, this might be Evans' big breakthrough. Instead, he does the smart thing with what he has to work with; adding a touch of visual flair, utilizing the gorgeous Canadian locations to his advantage.

The film has a stellar soundtrack, featuring music clips from some of the best bands in the world, including Broken Social Scene (responsible for the film's score) and Super Furry Animals. One such BSS tune plays during an amazingly moving scene near the end, and will remain entrenched in your mind for days. If anything, perhaps this film will open more closed-minded music lovers' ears to these stellar bands. The specific songs Evans chose for his film are highlights of both bands' catalogs, and work brilliantly within the story's context. If the film itself doesn't stick with you for days, the incredible music definitely will.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is full of clear images that are rich in detail, capturing the snowy Canadian landscape beautifully. Colors are bright and vivid, with no instances of bleeding or other blemishes. Solid black and shadow levels combine with a near complete lack of grain and dirt to complete this nice transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio serves as a great instrument with which to broadcast the film's amazing music. The surrounds are rarely used for anything other than the music though, with the rest of the audio aspects staying up front. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, remaining easy to understand throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Boss of It All, You Kill Me, Day Night Day Night, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, After the Wedding
10 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras are previews for other IFC releases, the theatrical trailer for Snow Cake, and 10 deleted scenes. These clips don't amount to much, but we do see more great work from the stellar cast.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Snow Cake is a solid indie drama, driven by wonderful performances and a director that knows what to do with limited resources. IFC's DVD features excellent audio and video presentations, and a few extras worth checking out, including some deleted footage.

 


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