Angel [1984]

Director: Robert Vincent O'Neill, Tom DeSimone
Stars: Marlene Dietrich; Herbert Marshall; Melvyn Douglas
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 360 minutes

Since 2000's George Washington, his disarming debut, David Gordon Green has thrown in his lot with an assortment of down-on-their-luck characters. That empathetic tendency comes to fruition in Snow Angels, his most carefully-calibrated feature. Like a marginally more upbeat Ice Storm, solemnity never gives way to cynicism. The narrative revolves around a circle of small-town individuals (filmed in snow-covered Halifax, the action takes place somewhere on the East Coast). Restaurant worker Annie (Kate Beckinsale, in a career peak performance) is estranged from sporadically-employed high school sweetheart Glenn (Joshua's Sam Rockwell). The two have their own child, but in her younger days, Annie took care of co-worker Arthur (Lords of Dogtown's Michael Angarano), now a teenager himself. Arthur still carries a torch for his former babysitter, while artsy classmate Lila (Juno's Olivia Thirlby) finds him equally appealing. With the adult relationships around him crumbling--including that of his own parents (Jeanetta Arnette and Griffin Dunne)--Lila's flirtatious behavior leaves Arthur flummoxed. When Glenn finds out about his wife's affair with the married Nate (Grindhouse's Nicky Katt), pent-up tensions give way to full-blown tragedy. In adapting Stewart O'Nan's novel, Green sets his film in the present rather than 1970s Pennsylvania, but the story is universal enough to work in any time or place. In the film's press notes, Rockwell says: "I believe the film is about second chances. Some of the people in the film get them, some don't." Fortunately, Green doesn't short-change a single one. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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