David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels

David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels is a film that asks the viewer to accept hard truths: that any given human being is capable of maliciousness, compassion, mistakes, volatility, naïveté and the desire to do better within the same lifetime. It presents to us an ensemble of small town characters at penultimate crossroads of their lives where decisions will be made that cannot be unmade, and may shape both their futures and our perceptions of character but we must remember… they’re only human. Resisting the urge to use any sort of filmmaking gimmickry, Green forges a blunt, unforgiving yet unusually honest portrait of these people: Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale give heartbreaking, career best performances as hopelessly dysfunctional divorced parents who lose their way both as a unit and as individuals following the tragic death of their infant daughter. This event spirals out around them into the community as we see murder, adultery, budding teen romance and all manner of human interaction transpire. Rockwell is a careening time bomb of emotional immaturity, a man who loves his ex wife and loved his daughter dearly but cannot reconcile his own mental health issues and his performance implodes upon itself like a dying star in a work of art that has never seen this actor more vulnerable and raw. Beckinsale ditches her glossy, restrained pretty girl image for a character that it’s easy to dismiss as unlikeable and irresponsible until you see the depth and dimension she pours into the performance, and it’s not so easy to pass judgment or condemn. Others provide vivid impressions including Griffin Dunne, Amy Sedaris, Nicky Katt, Jeannetta Arnette and Tom Noonan who bookends the film in haunting profundity as a no nonsense high school band teacher who seems almost like a godlike force or deity watching over the souls of this small northwestern town. The single uplifting plot thread is a teen romance between Olivia Thirlby and Michael Angarano, who flirt adorably, fall for each other awkwardly and discover sex, conversation and each other’s company in a realistic, down to earth and warm-hearted way, it’s a cathartic oasis of love and light amidst the dark onslaught of this overall bleak snowstorm of a narrative. What makes all of this tragedy, pain and sorrow so palatable then, you may ask? Green is a terrifically intuitive director who gets genuinely believable performances from his actors, full of naturalistic dialogue, believable idiosyncrasies and a sense that nobody in this story is simply good, simply bad or there to serve one archetype, they are all flawed human beings capable of the deepest acts of love, caring and compassion or the most callous, nightmarish violence, neglect and abuse. There’s a scene where a mother comforts her teen son who has made a traumatizing discovery and she tells him how important it is not to keep that pain bottled up, but to feel through it and it’s one of many strikingly intimate, uncommonly intelligent scenes in a film that is a meticulously edited and shot carousel of human experience. The tag line read: “Some will fly, some will fall,” and it’s applicable to our our experience as human beings overall: life is not easy for everyone, mistakes are made, love is found and lost and the cycle continues. A lot can be learned, felt, internalized and reflected upon after watching this miracle of a film.

-Nate Hill



Tim Orr is one of the busiest cinematographers currently working in Hollywood, having amassed 40 credits over the last 15 years, putting his distinct touch on both comedies and dramas, always knowing how to approach every visual situation with an organic and naturalistic quality. He’s the director of photography of choice for eclectic, can’t-pin-him-down filmmaker David Gordon Green, having shot all of the versatile director’s films, along with pairing up with a diverse field of directing talent on a terrific mix of studio and indie material. Tim has worked on some of the best comedies over the last few years, including the instant stoner classic Pineapple Express from DGG, Jody Hill’s brilliant satire Observe and Report, the underrated end-of-times comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Mike White’s charming black comedy The Year of the Dog. He’s also no stranger to dramas, having collaborated with DGG on the gritty Nicolas Cage film Joe, the dreamy Zooey Deschanel romance All the Real Girls, the Terrence Malick produced southern thriller Undertow, and film festival favorite George Washington. He’s also dabbled in television, with credits that include HBO’s hilarious water-cooler sensation Eastbound and Down, and he recently shot the pilot for the upcoming comedy Red Oaks for Amazon Originals, which was exec produced by Steven Soderbergh. In late October, his newest feature film hits the big screen – the highly anticipated Sandra Bullock political comedy Our Brand is Crisis – which was produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, and could be a factor in the year end awards season. He’s also got the Netflix original film Pee Wee’s Big Holiday, which marks the return of Paul Reubens as Pee Wee Herman(!), which is set for release in March of 2016. Orr is one of those tremendously talented cameramen who can switch back and forth, effortlessly, between genres and styles, and it will be exciting to see where his career goes from here after establishing such an interesting and varied body of work.

Snow Angels is certainly a bleak, sad film, with an uncompromising ending that’s both upsetting yet somehow cathartic. This isn’t a film I would recommend if you’re easily upset by realistic tragedy and tough stories about familial dysfunction. Orr shot with hand held cameras, draining the image of eye-popping color, and in tandem with the snowy and extra-cold atmosphere which worked perfectly with the story’s themes of anxiety and desperation, the film feels lived-in and entirely convincing. In the unique item Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Orr brought his usual brand of on-the-fly camerawork to the story but had the chance to shoot in vibrant widescreen, stressing bold color saturation in an effort to heighten the emotional fragility of the panicked characters. Nobody gave this movie any credit for having so much odd charm and looking at the end of the world with a unique and funny spin, and Orr was able to craft a film that felt big even though it always remained intimate. Filmmakers have been obsessed with capturing the mood and spirit of young love for years, and with the poetic, sad, and beautiful film All the Real Girls, director David Gordon Green tapped into the heartstrings of a young, inexperienced woman who is learning to love for the first time (Zooey Deschanel in her wonderful breakout performance) and an older lothario who just so happens to fall in love with the sister of his best friend (co-writer Paul Schneider). This is a small-town movie with perfect, small-town flavor, and Orr brought a lyrical, Malick-esque sense of visual poetry to this boldly romantic film via exquisitely framed compositions, naturalistic lighting, and an emphasis on long takes that heighten the dramatic mood at almost every turn. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, had their heart broken, been excited by the possibilities of a new romantic partner, or been confused as to what they want in life, will find this movie to be a potent summation of all of our fears, desires, and longings when it comes to finding that special someone. And a huge reason for its success is the dynamic way in which Orr captured every singe scene, stressing an inherently homespun quality that makes the film feel all the more believable and honest.