The fun of watching a suspense or action film in the theaters is often found in the crowd. Even in the worst film of the genres (in fact, maybe more often in the worst films), there will be one or two moments in which every bone in an audience member's body will be screaming at the character, "Don't go through the door YOU IDIOT! ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS HAVE DIED AFTER GOING THROUGH THE DOOR!" Oftentimes, in group settings, someone will, in fact, yell exactly that.
Very few people could ever have that group experience with Wolves in the Snow, a French-Canadian independent film picked up for DVD distribution by indie heroes Film Movement. But while sitting in my chair at home, in front of my television, I had exactly that experience repeatedly. By the end of the film, the lead character has made the obviously wrong choice so many times, I didn't care about the outcome.
Lucie (Marie-Josee Croze) starts out sympathetic enough; she begins the film by finding out that her husband Antoine has been cheating on her for years. So, she kills him, but is scared to report the crime. Unfortunately for Lucie, that's not all that Antoine has been hiding; he's been involved in a money-laundering scheme with some loose-knit group of gangsters, and he's sitting on a bunch of cash. Now, they want it back or want him dead.
Marie-Josee Croze makes this film work in so many ways throughout its 95 minutes. It's hard to be "scared" for an entire film without looking weak (not to mention stuck), but Croze finds room for all sorts of character development in a script that treats her, at times, more like a moving prop than a human being.
The cinematography is another plus for the film. Shot in Montreal, Yves Bélanger gets a tremendous amount of mileage out of both the city locations and the country scenes. It is, at all times, a fantastic looking film.
But the entire story hangs on Lucie making decisions too dumb to fathom. The entire movie could be over 20 minutes in, and likely would be over if Lucie's character did what any person would do facing that situation. Instead, she makes several irrational choices, not out of fear but out of selfish desires. She is never made to pay for these choices, nor does she learn from them. In fact, at the end of the film, Lucie has not developed at all; the preceding 95 minutes has not changed who she is or her outlook on life.
(NOTE: The film, as with all Film Movement releases, starts with an unskippable commercial for Film Movement.)
The Film Movement presentation of Wolves in the Snow is in non-anamorphic widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There is considerable grain in the image and some noticeable edge enhancement whenever a character stands in front of a white surface.
The 2.0 French stereo track does its job, but a suspenseful film like this would really benefit from an enveloping soundscape.
Compared to Film Movement's other releases, the special features section is underwhelming. There is a delightful short film called Colorforms about a messy little girl and her grandfather, along with biographies of key players in Wolves in the Snow. But there is no commentary track and no featurettes.
Film Movement knocks the ball out of the park so often that it is easy to forgive when one of its selections falls flat. Wolves in the Snow is more irritating than enjoyable thanks to the choices of its characters, and Croze's performance is not enough to save the script.