Never Gonna Snow Again
Emerging from a misty forest, then crossing an elevated platform whose lights flicker as he passes into a large Polish city, Ukrainian masseur Zenia (Alec Utgoff, Netflix's 'Stranger Things') hypnotizes an official to obtain a work permit. He’ll pass another obstacle, the gatekeeper of a community of cookie cutter McMansions where he will amass a devoted clientele, some of whom are concerned that it is “Never Gonna Snow Again.”
Laura's Review: B
Poland’s entry for the 2021 International Film Oscar is a magical fable about a mysterious man’s spiritual influence on the unhappy inhabitants of a wealthy, gated community. Zenia, who was born 7 years to the day before Chernobyl melted down and survived it, has a curious effect on everyone he meets, particularly the women. Who is he, exactly? With his calm, his beatific smile, his ability to speak any language and his gold cross, is he a prophet? Jesus Christ? Santa Claus?
What he definitely is is good for people like Maria (Maja Ostaszewska), a harried mom disrespected by her children who drinks too much and whose husband seems detached. As he massages her, he gives her an ego boost by commenting that she has the body of a 28 year-old, but it is the hypnosis in which he encourages her to look deeply within, that she begins to find equilibrium.
She is one of many facing aging, disease and loneliness, like the widow Ewa (Agata Kulesza, "Ida," "Cold War") or the man (Łukasz Simlat) convinced he’s beating cancer with natural remedies and exercise but who is on an illicit drug high or the woman (Katarzyna Figura) whose life revolves around her three pampered bulldogs. Zenia intuits their needs and even absorbs their (somewhat inadvertent) insults, all the while dreaming of the beloved mother he lost as ash snowed down around Chernobyl. Utgoff is perfection in this role, even his celluloid self providing a sense of calm.
Writer/directors Malgorzata Szumowska and Michal Englert, the director and cinematographer of IFC's "The Other Lamb," employ both otherworldly elements and a gently humorous approach to their mystical healer and his clients. Aggressive dogs are introduced as ‘wanting to be friendly’ (which, as it turns out, they indeed are although their owners are clueless). The gatekeeper who gets a kick out of his own power convinces Zenia to join him for ‘tea’ one evening, the two whooping it up driving around on the Segways used to patrol the complex. Maria’s youngest, Blanka, is a pip who solemnly informs Zenia she is pooing before asking him if he’s seen Santa. Ewa’s son arrives home with a friend to find his mother unconscious on Zenia’s massage table, the masseur ballet dancing about the home. Maria’s son complains that she doesn’t understand a word of French yet sends him to a French school, just as the Shostakovich waltz we heard on that official’s record player repeats on her doorbell. Pictures on walls are portals and magician’s tricks are real.
As climate change, pandemics and political extremes encourage fear and isolation, “Never Gonna Snow Again” encourages spiritual introspection and a lighter approach to life. Still, after ending their film with the quiet miracle everyone’s been pining for, they warn us with a title card that the last snow will fall in 2025.
Robin's Review: B
Kino Lorber opens "Never Gonna Snow Again" in theaters and virtually on 7/30/2021. Tickets for Kino Marquee go on sale on 7/26/2021 - more info can be found here.