Snow Cake, the story of a woman afflicted with autism, is distinctive, affecting, and yet (thank goodness!) completely unsentimental or sappy.
Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman) is an emotionally closed-off British ex-con who heads to Canada to visit an old lover. When he misjudges the distances between Ontario and Winnipeg, he rents a car and starts driving across the snowy winter landscape. He encounters a charming young woman named Vivienne Freeman (Emily Hampshire) who hitches a ride and begins to thaw out his frozen heart, but then tragedy strikes as the pair has a terrible car accident and Vivienne is killed. Alex is left with terrible guilt, and so drives to the little town of Wawa, to offer condolences to Vivienne's mother Linda (Sigourney Weaver). Surprisingly, Alex discovers that Linda is a high-functioning autistic, and as he agrees to help her plan the funeral an unlikely friendship develops. Meanwhile, Alex also meets Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss), Linda's beautiful next-door neighbor; his relationships with those two very different women change him very unexpected ways.
Forget Ripley from the Alien flicks! With Snow Cake, Sigourney Weaver gives the performance of her life. She transforms completely into Linda Freeman, a middle-aged woman whose life is framed but not controlled by her autism. From her slightly twitchy movements to the far-off look in her eyes, Weaver masterfully captures the physical elements of the disorder; add in the completely believable dialogue that reveals Linda's inner emotional state, and the portrayal is one that just might bring Weaver an Academy Award for her work. Alan Rickman is equally affecting as a man whose personal anguish threatens to shut him down completely; his emotional reawakening is so real that we can't help but empathize and root for him. Carrie-Anne Moss is quietly effective as the sexually restless neighbor, and Emily Hampshire is a beam of sunshine in her short time on the screen as Linda's daughter, a real face to watch for the future.
Welsh director Mark Evans cut his teeth on British television and small films like Trauma. With Snow Cake, he proves that he's got a talent for telling emotional stories without descending into sentimentality. That's a fine line, and one that makes this film sit head and shoulders above those Lifetime channel flicks that send a chill up the spine of every red-blooded male (and many of us females, too). First-time screenwriter Angela Pell should get massive credit as well. She tapped into her personal experience as the parent of an autistic boy, translating that knowledge into creating a portrait of a grown woman (and mother of a normal daughter) who has successfully made her way through life despite her disability. The potent combination of those two talents united with across-the-board fine acting make Snow Cake a supremely satisfying cinematic experience. Watch for this one during awards season later this year.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.