There’s not a hair out of place in Netflix’s new festive flick, Let It Snow. It takes the proven formula of the ‘networked narrative’ – a story weaved between a handful of seemingly independent individuals – and deploys it mechanically. This is sweet and harmless filmmaking, but fatally predictable.
The drama begins on Christmas Eve in Gracetown – a small suburban dwelling – and it’s snowing. This is a problem, we’re told, and also maybe the most dramatic thing that could happen. Let It Snow is stuffed with huge, sweeping statements, so when Joan Cusack says that “snow changes everything”, forgetting that, well, it eventually does melt, this is just the first of many like it.
Cusack is the unnamed (but starry enough to reel an audience in) narrator connecting the lives of eight teenagers weathering the storm. They’re divided into three groups, each navigating romantic turmoil in different ways. There’s the two best friends in love with each other, the reticent girl who meets the guy the whole world loves (but crucially, she doesn’t), and there’s the girl fighting her feelings for someone who doesn’t know she exists.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is, in more ways than one. Based on Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances – a triptych of short stories co-written by Lauren Myracle, Maureen Johnson and John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska). Each has roots in written fiction, but has struggled to bloom in a more substantial way on-screen. Luke Snellin marks his feature directorial debut, but the picture feels more like a cookie cutter product of a major machine, orchestrated without humans. He builds, packs and ticks all of the boxes, but does nothing more to give them any weight.
The missteps of Let It Snow are shaped more by the lack of stakes than by any particular offence. It hits all the necessary beats – everyone starts hopeful, has some fun, gets confused, does some thinking, ends up happy – and doesn’t hurt anyone, but this somehow makes it all the more frustrating. By sticking so much to the rulebook of pop-up human interaction, it dilutes the effort and emotion it allegedly harvests from. 90 minutes are slowly stretched out, and although the crop of good-intentioned young stars do their best – Kiernan Shipka swaps Sabrina’s Halloween for Christmas, Shameik Moore makes the most of his break from the Spider-Verse – their best exists in a bubble where authenticity means nothing, where time is spent only to deliver a tried-and-tested product.
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There is an audience for it, and here lies a promising platform for these young stars to develop a more challenging future. But inside and out, all the snow does in this Christmas film is dampen, freeze and immobilise everything it lands on. Unfortunately, when the sludge finally clears, there’s nothing substantial left to look at.
- Director: Luke Snellin
- Starring: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore
- Release Date: 8 November 2019