Written and directed by Ryan Noth (No Heart Feelings), Drifting Snow depicts a rural Ontario winter in all its frozen glory. But, tangled timelines and poor pacing hinder what could otherwise be a compelling drama.
Joanne (Sonja Smits) is a potter grieving the recent loss of her husband, John (Colin Mochrie). Chris (Jonas Bonnetta) is a young videographer with failing eyesight struggling to deal with his mother’s recent death. After a late-night car accident on a rural road, Joanna and Chris embark on a cross-province road trip that forces them to share their stories and re-evaluate their lives and perspectives.
I really wanted to love Drifting Snow; I’m a sucker for gorgeous visuals, and Drifting Snow is an optical feast. Inventive camera angles and intimate close-ups encourage the audience to consider the landscape of rural Ontario from a new perspective and reveal a harsh, but mesmerizing, beauty. It is clear from the opening seconds that Noth’s movie is all about seeing familiar people, spaces, and objects in new ways. Both protagonists are in the process of re-evaluating their lives after experiencing loss, and the cinematography reflects Joanne and Chris’ journey. It especially mirrors Chris’ struggle to come to terms with his failing eyesight and emphasizes the tragedy of his condition: as the viewer takes in the breathtaking visual beauty of the landscape, we see just how much Chris will lose.
Thematically, it all fits together – at least at first. While I was riveted by the aesthetic beauty on display during the first few minutes of Drifting Snow, it quickly became clear that the story and pacing were not as expertly choreographed as the visuals. The best moments of characterization in the film are when Chris and Joanne chit-chat and bond over their experiences of rural living. However, as the story moves back and forth between the road trip and flashbacks to Chris and Joanne’s lives leading up to the accident, things quickly become confusing. There is very little, visually, to signal the changes between past and present and the film seems to rely on dialogue to clue the audience in. This means that every exchange becomes expository and, honestly, a little boring.
Though Drifting Snow isn’t long (the runtime is under ninety minutes), I found myself losing interest and checking the clock half-way through. Smits and Bonnetta both deliver decent performances and their chemistry on screen makes for some sweet moments but, ultimately, I struggled to piece together the timeline and found it difficult to become emotionally invested in either character, or their journey together. This is a truly beautiful film, but stunning cinematography can only go so far.
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