A long journey but the time is finally here; everyone can now watch on the big screen the Cold War drama Despite the Falling Snow by director (and author of the book) Shamim Sarif.
The book was published in 2004 and we had out our first news about its adaptation for the big screen on February 2014 (here); few days after the start of filming in Belgrade.
Despite the Falling Snow tells the story of Katya (Rebecca Ferguson), a Russian girl who secretly spies for the Americans as the Cold War tightens its grip on Moscow around the 1959. She works with her friend Misha (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) but when she lands her biggest assignment, steling secrets from rising Kremlin star Alexander (Sam Reid), the last thing she expects is to fall in love with him. Katya‘s decision to live honestly with her husband comes too late as the Kremlin has already noticed a leak and sent KGB on his/her traces. After defecting to try and save Katya, Alexander is left alone in America and has managed to bury the memories surrounding his wife. Only forty years later the truth becomes clear.
The greatest thing about having a script written and directed by the author of the novel is that hardly you can be disappointed at the end of the screening. But obviously when the writer needs to make the story working in a different world with different needs and rhythms….well he (or this case she) needs to change the cards on the table.
We met two days ago (Friday, April 15th) Shamim Sarif at the Waterstones bookshop in Piccadilly for an evening called Page & Screen (watch here our video of the evening) and she told as that the hardest choice she made in the process was to leave out of the script the contemporary storyline; especially Estelle‘s character.
On the other hand, with a great director behind the camera, the screen can poetically emphasize some moments as only the magic of cinema can do. It’s what happens, for example, when older Alexander (Charles Dance) discovers who really is the political journalist Marina who is helping his niece Lauren (again Rebecca Ferguson) to find the truth about Katya. The images on the screen, at the precise moment when older Alexander realizes who he is facing, show us the sweet memory that is flowing in his mind…a little girl sent by her father to a worried man waiting for the love of his life on his wedding day…a little girl who with a white rose and few comforting words…(sorry but we can’t spoil this magnificent moment more than this).
Are these few, well balanced and unexpected moments joined to a couple of time-slip between the two storylines to give to the movie authenticity and depth. The only flaw is the relationship between Lauren and Marina that, not finding the right space on the screen (as opposed to what happens on the pages) is unnecessary and is likely to be distracting to the audience.
Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen, Florence Foster Jenkins, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) as Katya and Lauren (in the second case with a magnificent short blond haircut that makes, if possible, her face even more sweet and perfect than usual) is the mainstay of the movie. She is just outstanding, but it’s not a news.
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones, Woman in Gold, Me Before You) as the old Alexander, although with a much less complete story than the one in the book, manages to give with few words and a lot of expressiveness the exact weight to his character but, more importantly, to the 40-year long sorrow.
And now the two youg men characters. When I started to read the book, in the first months of 2014, the cast had just been announced. Back then I had recently met Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Misha) and Sam Reid (Alexander) in person. Well, the more I devoured the pages, the more I was convinced that the casting of the two characters would have had much more sense the other way around. Well, the other day, in the darkened movie theater, I had to change my mind a few minutes after the start of the film because their are just perfect in their roles. And if Oliver Jackson-Cohen interpretation flaws slightly of expressive pathos in the epilogue, Sam Reid shows, once again, to make his mark either when he appears in supporting roles (’71, The Riot Club) or when he is at the center of the story as in Despite the Falling Snow where he carries on his shoulders all the story feelings: pain, love, fear, dread, agony, regret, hope, disillusion,…
Rachel Portman‘s score is just the icing on the cake; while song Now that You Love Me Again by Ella Henderson is the perfect way to come back slowly to reality before leaving the movie theater and dive into the London lights.