Snow Cake is one of my favourite films. Not because it has a Welsh director, Marc Evans, or music from Welsh bands Stereophonics and Super Furry Animals or even because Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman are in it... although these things certainly contribute.
It’s a drama focused on the friendship between a high-functioning autistic woman, Linda, (Sigourney Weaver) and a man, Alex, (Alan Rickman) who is traumatized after a fatal car accident. I came across it on television one evening and was intrigued by it. Unlike the usual Hollywood films which have fairly predictable patterns of narrative, I didn’t know what this film was going to be about, where it was going, what would happen. The people in it seem as if they could be real people, unlike the polished and air-brushed version of people you habitually see at the cinema. And there was a lot of silence, meaning I had time to observe.
Apart from this, Snow Cake portrays, to some extent at least, the concept that we are all differently-abled. At times the able-bodied/minded characters are completely disabled by their emotions. Linda finds it difficult to form relationships with people but so does her neighbour Maggie. The story suggests that we all have handicaps of one sort or another. Ideally by helping each other we can learn from our differences and enjoy things about each other – but the film doesn’t sentimentalise this or make it look easy. The script was written by Angela Pell who has an autistic child herself.
I love Linda’s invention of ‘Comic Book Scrabble’. In this version of the game the players are allowed to make up words using their available letters. The catch is that they then have to use the word in a story or sentence relating to a Comic Book character.
I’d like to try it out. As well as being fun, I think it would be instructive to play with words and intuit meaning from the way they sound, to employ that part of the brain that makes up stories.
The film finishes on an uplifting note but you know that isn’t the end of it. I think it shows us something about how life is. As Paul Gallico puts it in 'The Lonely':
“For you could be a man [or woman] only when you could be the things you were and face up to the truth without flinching and denying it. And the truth was that in life on earth there was no such thing as happiness without pain, victory without defeat. There was joy and enchantment and beauty to be garnered on the path, but at all times too, there were burdens to be born.”
All the characters, in the parallel universe that fictional characters must surely inhabit, will still have burdens to carry, but they have all garnered some joy and enchantment and beauty along the way and hopefully will continue to do so.
Oh, did I mention it's also funny?