Despite the Falling Snow

Review by Adam Chapman

Directed by

Shamim Sarif

Starring

Antje Traue Charles Dance Rebecca Ferguson

Anticipation.

Following on from Rebecca Ferguson’s last role as the sassy spy alongside Ethan Hunt, this should be mission possible

Enjoyment.

You’ll be playing the guessing game on where it’s going, and who is who.

In Retrospect.

After penning the book and directing the film, Sarif could have benefited from a fresh eye.

Rebecca Ferguson as a US spy is the only stand out in this confused Cold War drama.

Author Sidney Sheldon writes about heroines attempting to navigate their way through a man’s world, confronting the dangers and desires of the heart. It’s a formula not to be sniffed at – he has sold over 300 million books during his 50 year career.

As writer and director, Shamim Sarif brings her own racy, Sheldon-esque espionage romance to the big screen, and she sticks to the above formula. The story takes us into post-stalinist Russia at the height of the Cold War, with Katya (Rebecca Ferguson) as an American spy tasked with stealing intel from do-gooder Russian politician, Alexander (Sam Reid). Katya’s mission, however, becomes muddled when – would you believe – she falls in love with him.

With political tensions simmering, the snowy streets portraying life in ’50s Soviet Union feel like a fitting allegory for the icy standoff between the two powerhouse countries. Displaying promises of a polished melodrama, the archetypal romance between between Katya and Alexandre (on which the plot largely feeds) is more mawkish than emotionally charged. Sarif employs techniques such as slow motion parting gestures to provide us with cues to start caring.

The plot bounces back and forth between time periods, jumping from a stylised period drama of the ’50s to New York and Moscow of the ’90s. And it’s a little jarring. This is also compounded by the questionable choice of casting Ferguson as not only the spy heroine but also as her daughter 30 years later, the same person just with a hipper haircut to usher in the era. Assuming an undercover identity is an integral part of Katya’s profession, so it is not immediately clear that they are different people. It’s a confusing development which really could have been avoided.

On the plus side, Charles Dance provides a praiseworthy turn as the older Alexandre, who features more prominently towards the final act. His refreshing understatement contrasts with the more self-consciously stylised leads, which appears to owe more to Sarif’s direction than their interpretation of the characters. There’s great potential here, but the execution is far too clunky.

Published 15 Apr 2016

Anticipation.

Following on from Rebecca Ferguson’s last role as the sassy spy alongside Ethan Hunt, this should be mission possible

Enjoyment.

You’ll be playing the guessing game on where it’s going, and who is who.

In Retrospect.

After penning the book and directing the film, Sarif could have benefited from a fresh eye.

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