Never Gonna Snow Again

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Never Gonna Snow Again
"While each of these little worlds holds intrigue - as do the dreamlike cutaways to forests of the mind that Zhenia induces through hypnotism in his clients, lit and shot with care by Englert - the film never quite settles into a groove." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

Malgorzata Szumowska's films have always been an intriguing blend, often mixing mordant humour with more weighty ideas - as with Body[/dilm] - and incorporating a spiritual element, most recently with the more serious cult drama [film]The Other Lamb. Her latest, which sees her regular cinematographer Michal Englert named as co-director, returns to the playfulness of her earlier work as they present a satire of suburbia that, at times, also has the quality of a fable.

The action centres on Zhenia (Alec Utgoff, who many might recognise from his turn as Dr Alexei in Stranger Things, and who moves with a dancer's beatific grace through the film). Zhenia is a Ukrainian emigre to Poland - something almost everyone seems keen to remind him of - who plies his massage trade around a wealthy gated community. It's the sort of well-heeled but competitive place where the jangle of one-upmanship can be heard in the competing musical doorbells and door welcome wreaths that are so elaborate they have been stripped of all joy, and which are a source of recurrent comedy throughout.

Copy picture

The action unfolds as Zenia moves from the mini-world of one home to the next, each door opening onto a self-contained universe of family foibles. One houses a woman whose every furnishing is dedicated to her dogs, another a clan where the husband is slowly succumbing to cancer. Elsewhere there's a woman still dealing with lasting grief and a fourth features a harried mum finds respite in wine and flirtation. Into these versions of chaos steps Zhenia - whose Zen-like calm reflects his name. Whether he actually has some sort of healing powers is left ambiguous, but many of his clients certainly believe that.

While each of these little worlds holds intrigue - as do the dreamlike cutaways to forests of the mind that Zhenia induces through hypnotism in his clients, lit and shot with care by Englert - the film never quite settles into a groove. A plotline about a pair of strangers trying to find Zhenia never takes shape, while attempts to give the film an air of environmental cautionary tale also don't quite come off. Szumowkska and Englert never once let the mood slacken, so that, even if this feels scattergun in terms of the targets being aimed at, it remains intriguing till the last - which is a pretty neat trick when you think about it.

Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2020
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Never Gonna Snow Again packshot
A masseur from the East enters the lives of the rich residents of a bland, walled off community.


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