Cannes 2014: 'Snow in Paradise' review

Showing in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes, film editor Andrew Hulme's directorial debut, Snow in Paradise (2014), is a brave attempt to inject new life into the tired genre of the London gangland thriller. However, the original twists and a certain visual flair struggle to overcome a sense of familiarity and implausibility about the whole affair. A young man, Dave (Frederick Schmidt), is an entry level gangster with a peculiarly random hatred of hipsters and the gentrification of his manor. He shouts at them through the glass of their coffee shops, telling his friend Tariq (Aymen Hamdouchi) that those people are "not really living - not like us". So what's this? Crime as the route to authenticity?

Dave's psychopathic Uncle Jimmy (Martin Askew, who co-wrote the story based on his own life), a big shot in the firm, offers Dave a leg up into the world: a drug delivery which will see him finally start to make some money and climb the ladder. Dave takes along Tariq to back him up, without telling Tariq the nature of the deal. It's the first of many head-scratchingly stupid decisions that Dave makes which strain at credibility and rob him of all the sympathy that Schmidt's charismatic performance earns. Dave is also a crack smoker and has a relationship with a prostitute, who has what you might call 'a heart of gold'. But no decision is as dimwitted as that of trying to filch some of the merchandise from his Jimmy's drug handover. As such, both Dave and Tariq will have to pay the consequences for their blunder.

Visually, Hulme's debut aspires to stylishness. Images are reflected and refracted and sequences are cut to music have a dazzling, giddy, and occasionally zonked out effect and distinguish it from the more televisual entries in the genre. The latter part of Snow in Paradise sees Dave increasingly desperate. Caught in the middle of some kind of pitched war, he and the far more conventionally avuncular Mickey (David Spinx) seek solace in his friend Tariq's mosque. Thus, Dave's growing interest in Islam is the one aspect of the film that's genuinely original. And yet, the conversion narrative has to fit into the far less original gangster plot, whilst the placid pace of the one doesn't quite fit the amphetamine rush of the other, rendering them both rather implausible.

Hulme's gangster story is far too contrived and mentions of the devil are laughably out of place. As dapper as Dave looks in a suit, he's so utterly inept at a life in crime that it beggars belief (almost as if he only chose it for the clothes). Jimmy tells him he has to know the rules, but it's like Dave has never seen a crime film, even though it's obvious the filmmakers have seen too many. Snow in Paradise shows glimpses of promise for Hulme's new career path, as well as showcasing the talents of Schmidt, its leading man. However, despite these fleeting moments, the film stumbles around some banal clichés and ultimately spins off into something far less consequential than it could have been.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.

John Bleasdale


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