Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m not much of a believer in things that are, say, supernatural, with psychics certainly being one of those things.  I don’t think there are ghosts floating around, I believe if advanced alien civilizations did exist out in the cosmos somewhere they would have blown us up by now, and people can’t read your palms, or touch your forehead and look into your future.  Why would anyone want to know this anyway, especially if one subscribes to the fact that a man cannot control his destiny?  After watching Guy Pearce’s character Jimmy Starks reaction to discovering such information, my belief holds true, as his story is told in director Mark Fergus ‘First Snow’.

Jimmy Starks is a fast talking, hard driving hustling slickster, in desperate need of some full body Prell hair moisturizer, whose car starts acting up while on a sales call.  The mechanic, much to Jimmy’s chagrin, tells him it’s gonna be some hours before the car is fixed leaving Jimmy to putt around this desert town for a few hours to keep himself occupied.  He spies a fortune teller advertising his wares on a cardboard cutout written with crayon and decides to partake.  The soothsayer, as played by the always excellent J.K. Simmons, tells Jimmy a few choice items, but then is hit with what appears to be something akin to electric shock and releases Jimmy’s hands, obviously spooked.  Jimmy is taken aback a bit, but goes on his merry way giving it no nevermind.  That is until everything the psychic had told him previously starts coming true.  Now Jimmy needs to find this guy and find out what the hell he saw that spooked him so bad, and eventually, with the help of a .45, Jimmy convinces the man to spill the beans.  He informs Jimmy that he saw nothing.  No roads, no branches, nothing.  It’s over.  You gonna die.  But it won’t happen until the first snow of the year though, so live it up.  Oh, and you can’t change it.  Whatever road you take, leads to this inevitability.  Good luck and good night.

Well Jimmy starts to trip.  Mightily.  He tries to do everything in his power to stop this inevitability, becoming increasing paranoid, allowing his hair to become even more greasy, freaking out his girlfriend (Piper Perabo), tracking down a friend he double crossed years ago, fearing an employee he had to fire and eventually contemplating suicide.  So the question becomes can Jimmy stop this from happening, altering his destiny, or is this destiny stuff a bunch of hokum and one should just live their life.  Or maybe one should just stay away from palm readers all together.  That’s what I would do.

‘First Snow’ raises a lot of interesting issues and the narrative itself is very compelling.  Fergus co-wrote this script, as he also co-wrote the excellent ‘Children of Men’, so the dude certainly knows how to weave a tale.  As a director though, Fergus is no Cuaron, at least not yet.  This is the man’s directorial debut, and though he does show promise, there are too many lulls and too many gaps which may cause the viewer to lose interest at certain points.  Pearce’s Jimmy Starks in certainly not a character that one can develop any specific attachment too as he is far too smarmy, underhanded and unlikable a persona.  However, liking Jimmy isn’t necessary to care about the character’s outcome, but I thought it was difficult to understand why Jimmy is descending so deeply into the mania that he has immersed himself.  If nothing else, Jimmy Starks is man of stark reality, living for the now, not caring about much of anybody or anything.  Definitely not believing in anything or anyone outside of himself, so why does he descend so deeply into the paranoia as told to him by a road side soothsayer?  Perhaps the adage rings true in that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  And Jimmy being completely devoid of spirit was more than willing to be drawn into anything that filled this hole in heart.  Or something. 

Pierce was effective in portraying the different emotions that Starks went through during the film, and considering he was in virtually every single scene, he carried the film reasonably well.  ‘First Snow’ just seemed to run a little too long, and the narrative was too spaced out to provide the emotional kick that I believe was required for this type of character study.  Not a bad film, but it seemed as if it could have been a lot better.

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