Despite the Falling Snow
dir-scr Shamim Sarif
prd Hanan Kattan
with Rebecca Ferguson, Sam Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Antje Traue, Charles Dance, Anthony Head, Thure Lindhardt, Ben Batt, Amy Nuttall, Ana Sofrenovic, Anne Kidd, Imogen Daines
release UK 15.Apr.16
16/UK 1h33
Despite the Falling Snow
Cold War conundrum: Ferguson and Reid

jackson-cohen traue dance
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Despite the Falling Snow With a driving central mystery, this Cold War drama holds the interest using a complex narrative and engaging characters, although the over-earnest tone and muted energy leave much of it feeling somewhat lacklustre. And writer-director Shamim Sarif never properly grapples with the pungent political themes. But it's still a compelling story.

In 1961 New York, Russians and Americans gather for a political conference, during which Russian foreign officer Alexander (Reid) defects. Flash forward to 1992, and Alexander (now Dance) is still wondering what happened to his beloved wife Katya (Ferguson) as his niece Lauren (also Ferguson) prepares to return to now-open Moscow with her art exhibition. There, she meets journalist Marina (Traue), who helps Lauren discover more about her family story. This includes learning that in the late 1950s Katya was a spy working with Alexander's best pal Misha (Jackson-Cohen), who's still in Moscow (now Head).

The film flickers back and forth between the late 1950s and the early 1990s, paralleling two romances that might not be quite as pure as they seem to be, since both Katya and Marina have questionable motives. Neither of these relationships ever quite boils over into outright passion, but they're intriguing enough. And they're nicely underplayed by the cast members. Although this underplaying also extends to the film's thriller sequences, which don't exactly get pulses racing.

Ferguson is terrific in her double role as aunt and niece, offering haunting echoes of the political rift in this family. She also does a nice job playing Katya's conflicting motives and Lauren's more open-hearted yearning. As Alexander, both Reid and Dance offer plenty of intelligent charisma. Jackson-Cohen is charming and nicely shadowed, although Head's older drunken-paranoid version is a bit of a caricature. All of these characters are are so emotive and serious that they create a rather enjoyably soapy atmosphere.

As if the title wasn't enough of a metaphor, Sarif keeps it lightly snowing in virtually every scene. But that's about as deep as the idea goes. The political realities are never even remotely explored beyond the generally oppressive, unjust atmosphere in Moscow. Neither is the reality that Russia's true problems had nothing to do with communism and have continued after the collapse of the USSR. There are also glaring lapses in the story's timeline (at least one character is 10 years too young in 1992). But fans of sudsy romance won't care about any of that.

cert 12 themes, violence 4.Apr.16

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