An unusually blunt melodrama by David Gordon Green, melodious poet of such sentimental delicacies as George Washington and All the Real Girls, Snow Angels introduces a pair of gunshots and then follows with a flashback narrative to account for them, cross-cutting between the emotional bludgeoning of two unhappy couples. Louise (Jeannetta Arnette) is splitting with Don (Griffin Dunne), a self-absorbed philanderer and science teacher at their son's school. Across town and miles further down the path of estrangement, Annie (Kate Beckinsale) has a restraining order against her alcoholic, suicidal, Jesus-freak ex-husband, Glenn (Sam Rockwell). Caught in the middle are the two couples' children, including Louise's son Arthur (Michael Angarano), who falls for quirky art chick Lila (Olivia Thirlby). As always, Green's sympathies lie with his melancholy youngsters, and, happily, his own heart is full of subtle instruments. What saves this heavy material from sinking into the familiar turf of the Small-Town Midwinter Tragedy is his ear for verbal idiosyncrasy and off-kilter conversation rhythms. The film feels transitional for Green—one foot in the interiorized indieverse of his previous work, the other taking a big step toward more conventional projects. In shaking off his influences and affections, will he shed imagination and intuition as well? Snow Angels answers no—even as it poses questions about life and love that are hardly worth asking.
Beckinsale ponders her fate.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., March 21. Rated R. 106 minutes.