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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997)



Reviews and Comments

Julia Ormond creates a captivatingly icy character in Smilla, the title character of this taut mystery thriller. A boy has fallen from the top of the roof; his death is ruled as an accident. Smilla's instincts tell her otherwise. The boy's footprints in the snow on the roof, for instance lead very directly to the edge.

The fun of this film is in its journey to the truth. Clues are unraveled as the audience watches in rapt fascination. And it's more than a mystery, for the film is also about its sleuth, and her coping with her own problems and emotions. For one thing, the boy was a close friend. For another, she becomes attached to a neighbor who's also concerned about the boy's death, but perhaps not for the right reasons. The most remarkable thing about this film, however, is how this solid, believable mystery has such ridiculously silly answers. The let-down is gradual, so it doesn't leave viewers with an unredeemable dissatisfaction, but the solution presented and the way things are resolved are frightfully poor. Smilla's Sense of Snow is worth seeing for its character portraits and the tense energy of its first three quarters. Its asinine conclusion can be ignored without making the movie unfulfilling -- just be forwarned.