'Snowland': An Israeli film that won't melt your heart - review

The film moves from sequence to sequence, with a pulsing pop music score that does little to distract from how repetitive and obvious most of the screenplay is.

 ‘SNOWLAND’ (photo credit: United King Films/David Scouri)
‘SNOWLAND’
(photo credit: United King Films/David Scouri)

Sometimes a movie tells a personal story that means a great deal to its director and writers, but they utterly fail to shape the material into a plot that is meaningful to anyone who doesn’t know the people on whom it is based. This is the case with Jonni Zicoltz’s Snowland, currently playing in theaters around Israel.

In the director’s statement released with the press kit, Zicoltz writes about how Snowland is based closely on his own relationship with a childhood friend, a good subject for a dramedy, but Snowland never quite comes together. Ori Pfeffer (Hacksaw Ridge, Messiah) plays Jonni, the character based on the director, who tries to eke out a living running a once very hot Tel Aviv bar that no one goes to anymore. He is in a serious relationship with Mayki (Nati Kluger, who has appeared in Spyders and The Greenhouse), who loves him and wants to have children with him, the sooner the better. But he seems much happier when he is with his buddy Amir (Shlomi Koriat, who was in The Arbitrator and All In), whose life is falling apart even faster.

Amir is sleeping on an old mattress in a back room of Jonni’s club. Amir’s daughter, Tamara (Noy Bloshinsky), has a serious form of cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, while Amir’s estranged wife, Alona (Tali Sharon of Srugim), is angry with him for leaving her to cope with the situation more or less on her own. She starts drawing close to an Orthodox rabbi to try to find the strength to carry on and eventually even takes out a restraining order against Amir.

Meanwhile, Jonni, who is like an uncle to Tamara, and Amir try to find ways to make the girl happy. Amir has promised to show her the most beautiful snow in the world, and the two old friends dress up in elaborate penguin costumes and create a fake snowstorm outside her window. Alona and Amir get back together, while Amir and Jonni go on a road trip, where they revisit old traumas and eventually reconcile.

Most of the scenes featuring Tamara, who is angelic as a stricken child in a movie can only be, are cloying and reminded me of another sweet little girl with cancer in the 2018 Israeli film Redemption, who also brought out the best in her father. If some aliens with no knowledge of disease were to land on earth and watch these movies about kids with cancer, they would think it was some kind of exalted condition that makes kids ethereal and good natured.

Jerusalem Cinematheque unveils renovated auditorium  (credit: Courtesy)Jerusalem Cinematheque unveils renovated auditorium (credit: Courtesy)

The film moves from sequence to sequence, with a pulsing pop music score that does little to distract from how repetitive and obvious most of the screenplay is. There is a kernel of a good script here (how two goofy friends help each other when one’s daughter has cancer) but it could have used a couple of rewrites. What was filmed seems like a rough draft and although it is only 85 minutes, it feels overlong.