Snow Cake: Autism and Beyond

Snow Cake

Snow Cake (2006)–For those who wait for a movie to come out on DVD before seeing it, here’s a recommendation. Snow Cake came out a few months ago on DVD but is still on the current release shelf. It opened the 2006 Berlin International Film Festival with a gala screening, and was shown at numerous film festivals last year including the TIFF.

Seems like a long wait, but well worth it. And for those who have already seen it in theatres, the DVD release could well be the second wind. Considering all the special features of interviews with director and cast, as well as the quality deleted scenes, you might want to keep this one.

Filmed in Wawa, northern Ontario, the Canadian and British collaboration is one of those gems that can be found quite readily in the indy batch. Welsh director Marc Evans has won several European film awards. On top of his sensitive handling of the story, the film benefits greatly from an amazing cast.

Alan Rickman is Alex Hughes. While driving through Ontario to Winnepeg,  he picked up a young hitchiker, Vivienne (Emily Hampshire, who was nominated for a Genie for this role).  During the trip they got into an accident and the girl was tragically killed.  Propelled by guilt and responsibility, Alex went to look for Vivienne’s mother Linda, played by Sigourney Weaver, in the town of Wawa.  Upon finding her, it did not take long for him to notice that she had received the news with a very different light. Linda was autistic. From his short stay with her, coming to invovle in Linda’s life and getting to know her mysterious neighbour Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), Alex drove on to his destination a few days later with a new perspective on himself and his ordeal.

Even though short-lived, Vivienne’s character is memorable. Her enthusiasm for life and acceptacne of those around her underscores the film.  The sound of Broken Social Scene adds a touch of lively, contemporary flare, like a tribute to the affable character of Vivienne. In contrast, Alan Rickman’s role as Alex is painfully affective. At times it is heartwrenching to watch as he deals with his internal torments as the story reveals itself.

Sigourney Weaver had spent a whole year researching on autism to ready herself for the role of Linda.  And for most parts, she has delivered a convincing performance. But it is the screenwriter Angela Pell that has so poignantly depicted the limitations but also the different views and insights an autistic person can offer those who are considered ‘normal’. Pell has mingled her characters, autistic or not, into a pool of humanity, revealing the indistinguishable, common thread joining them all.  Her script is at times very funny, and at times permeates with pathos. Through the words of Linda, the punchline is delivered ever so aptly at the end. Angela Pell has indeed written from her heart and her own experience.

She is mother to a nine-year-old autistic son.

~~~3 Ripples