"Snow Cake" 

click to enlarge art39_rental_snow_cake_100.jpg

The tension in "Snow Cake" is not one the moviemakers probably intended, falling as it does between the characters, who are very likeable, and the story they inhabit, which is, well, not so much.

"Snow Cake" follows Alex (Alan Rickman), a quiet loner who, against his better judgment, picks up young, bubbly Vivienne (Emily Hampshire), hitchhiking her way home in Ontario. No sooner have these two been skillfully pitched together than Alex blurts the unforgivable cringer, "I killed someone." He's making an important point that's supposed to resonate later, but really it's the other way around. Clunky contrivances like this are constantly attempting to kill the mood, arriving like trapdoors after Vivienne dies in a terrible accident.

Alex visits Vivienne's mom, Linda (Sigourney Weaver), to offer condolences. Linda, however, is more disturbed that he might track in dirt. Linda is autistic, or has ADHD, the difference here only an expert could sort out. We can only say that Weaver's attempt to mimic mental disorder is at best commendable for a good try.

Still, we enjoy watching Alex and Linda learn to deal with each other as "Snow Cake" settles into an edgy Hallmark movie, complete with quirky townspeople and a nosy police officer (there has to be one) who doesn't like the cock of Alex's spectacles. He also doesn't like Alex finding the town sexpot (Carrie-Anne Moss), but we do -- until this small town reverie is interrupted so the filmmakers can get to their point.

Alex reveals a secret (there has to be one) that just happens to tie everything up perfectly. A little too perfectly, perhaps, but "Snow Cake" ends up light and amusing despite its aspirations. (NR) S

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