Let It Snow (2019)
Let love take you by storm.
The Christmas movie factory is as reliable as a Rolex watch, dutifully firing out a selection of comfortably familiar holiday tales in the back quarter of every year for us to cozy up to in long evenings (or, seeing as this is being written in Australia, Marvel at the existence of things like ‘snow’ and ‘ice’ while the entire country burns down around our ears). Few are particularly brilliant, some are risible, and every year there’s one or two that stand out from the pack for one reason or another: 2018’s The Christmas Chronicles is worth a drive-by because its main schtick is ‘Kurt Russell is Santa Claus,’ while this year’s Klaus deserves your attention due to its gorgeous, painterly animation.
Let It Snow, which slipped quietly onto the Netflix roster last month, is another that’s worth your attention, if for no other reason that the impressive ensemble cast includes a goodly representation of Hollywood’s (or at least television’s) rising young talents of the moment. Adapted from the book Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by YA heavy hitters John Green (the guy responsible for The Fault in Our Stars), Maureen Johnson (the author behind 13 Little Blue Envelopes), and Lauren Myracle (The Internet Girls series), it’s like a K-Mart Greta Gerwig movie, or perhaps Love, Actually (2003) for the adolescent set.
Our scene is set in the picturesque town of Laurel, Illinois, on Christmas Eve, when an unprecedented snowstorm is going to put many members of our cast in close proximity to each other in interesting combinations so they can work out their true feelings for one other, for better or worse. The relationship dynamics in paly are numerous, varied, but not too outside-of-the-box: Tobin (Mitchell Hope) wants to be more than friends with his tomboy bestie Angie, aka The Duke (Kiernan Shipka) but doesn’t know how to seal the deal. Julie (Isabela Moner who’s credited as Isabela Merced here) has a meet-cute with pop star Stuart Bale (Shameik Moore who sings the flick’s theme song ‘First Christmas (That I Loved You)’) after his train is stuck in town by the snow, but she’s more worried about the possibility of having to leave her seriously ill mother Debbie (Andrea de Oliveira) to go to college. Waitress Dorrie (Liv Hewson) has a girl crush on cheerleader Kerry (YouTube star Anna Akana) after a secret hook-up, but Kerry is in the closet. Fellow Waffle House employee Keon (Jacob Batalon) just wants to throw a massive party at the restaurant to impress a prominent DJ. And so on.
It’s all pretty rote teen drama, but relationship anxieties are world-ending crises when you’re charging through your adolescence and frankly, not much changes as an adult, so anyone who hasn’t willfully suppressed the ‘do they like me?’ emotional hell of youth will find someone to empathize with in the mixed ensemble. But Let It Snow isn’t really interested in exploring hormone-driven psychological torture — all angst is overcome in time for a big, happy Christmas Eve ending. This is a holiday movie, after all. And that’s perfectly fine.
There’s a lot to enjoy here. The cast, which includes Shameik Moore, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Kiernan Shipka, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018), Odeya Rush, Lady Bird (2017), Mitchell Hope, Descendants (2015-18), and Miles Robbins, Blockers (2018), are obviously pretty great across the board, for a given value of ‘great’ — nobody here is thanking the Academy anytime soon based off these performances, but they’re all charismatic and bring some degree of interiority to their roles, which is about all we can ask for. Among the older set, we get treated to D’Arcy Carden, The Good Place (2016), as musician Stuart’s anxious manager, and the always welcome Joan Cusack crops up in several storylines as a weird local referred to as the Tin Foil Woman who acts as a combo of fairy godmother and Greek chorus to our ensemble of lovestruck teens.
Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Luke Snellin, there are couple of odd choices made along the way — not necessarily bad ones, just strange. I like The Waterboys as much as the next Irish-descended boozy writer, but having ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ as a repeated musical motif is a touch out of step with the whole ‘youth of the moment’ thing the film’s got going on. Also, the Christmas setting is a little backgrounded — if there’s a concrete reason for this being specifically a Christmas movie, it stems from market positioning rather than anything vital to the text.
But that’s a minor quibble. Let It Snow is a warm, life-affirming, teen-focused (although tweens are the target audience, let’s be real) little confection of a flick. If it’s your (or your kids’) sort of thing, give it a spin. If it’s not, walk away.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Travis Johnson