The Snowman

The Snowman


Reviewed by: James Benefield

The Snowman is a disquieting and endlessly sad little documentary which shows the implosion of a family due to severe mental illness.

Julie Lamont explores the story of her father, Jimmy, who went to Antarctica in 1978 to train astronauts for NASA. Jimmy came back home to Australia, three months later, as a changed man. He later claimed the CIA had given him a chemical lobotomy, although during the course of the film it becomes clear there are also far more rational explanations. Regardless of these, his behaviour becomes erratic on his return; he ends up replacing the petrol in the family car with lemonade, starts writing telephone numbers obsessively on the walls, and believing his son isn't his son. His wife eventually leaves him, taking the couple's children with her.

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The film moves from conspiracy theory and governmental intrigue to a story of a family still living through the consequences of the events of 30 years ago and still, to some extent, in severe denial. Alternative explanations for what happened are given and what we have is a melange we have to spoon through and separate alongside the documentary's participants.

What impresses most is Lamont's intelligent and absorbing approach to her material. The film initially keeps a lot of information back and delivers revelations and information at well-paced intervals. Some viewers may find this style contrived and manipulative, but I found it totally enthralling, demonstrating such a detached approach for someone so central to the story. Lamont's grip of narrative continues to be incredibly strong through to the end, as her story culminates in a family road trip back to the family's Scottish roots and it's fittingly cathartic and touching.

The only gripes here are with the histrionics of the cod Philip Glass soundtrack, and the very sudden ending. The first is a relatively minor point, but the second makes you feel a little short changed. Yet it is hard to think of how Lamont would have given this a suitable conclusion. I hope she makes a follow up.

Reviewed on: 10 May 2011
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A daughter's journey to try to find out what triggered her father's mental illness.
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Director: Juliet Lamont

Writer: Juliet Lamont

Year: 2009

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Australia


Australia 2011

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