Writer-director David Gordon Green's (Pineapple Express, All the Real Girls) indie drama Snow Angels is the story of a small town united by a horrifying act of violence told through the eyes of about three couples in various stages of their romantic lives--teenage Arthur (Michael Angarano) and his quirky young love, Lila (Olivia Thirlby); his separating parents Louise (Jeanetta Arnette) and Don (Griffin Dunne); and his former babysitter Annie (Kate Beckinsale) and her estranged, unstable ex-husband Glenn (Sam Rockwell).
Gordon Green's previous work (most notably All the Real Girls) has earned him critical accolades and Snow Angels went over fairly well at Sundance. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there are some really great things about it--namely the performances, particularly by Sam Rockwell (Charlie's Angels, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), who just drips with talent, and the endearing Michael Angarano (Will and Grace, Lords of Dogtown).
But there are some odd things, too, like Gordon Green's deliberate choice to make the time signature obscure--think early '80s rugs and big TVs and then a cell phone out of nowhere. And the movie feels extremely personal, so much so that you expect to find out that it's a story from Gordon Green's own past, when in fact it is actually based on a novel by Stewart O'Nan.
Ultimately, though, the thing about Snow Angels is that it is just remarkably heavy--to the point of being off-putting. In the end, it feels sort of like a poor man's version of American Beauty, stripped of all the good parts and devoted only to a low-budget wallowing in misery that will leave you shell-shocked and depressed on your way out of the theater. Gordon Green's movies are usually pretty hard to find in the theater, and in this case, that might be just as well.