Never Gonna Snow Again (2020)

Interesting and meditative in its treatment of the metaphysical in the real world, this Polish work, however, is vague about what it wants to say as a mysterious Ukrainian massage therapist works his charm on a gated community of oddball residents. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,552

Dir. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020 | Poland | Drama | 116min | 2.39:1 | Polish & Russian
M18 (passed clean) for sexual scenes and drug references

Cast: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza
Plot: Zhenia, a Russian-speaking immigrant from the East works as a masseur in Poland and becomes a guru-like figure in a wealthy gated community of his clients.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Immigrant; Mysterious Person; Inner Powers
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Like her earlier film, Body (2015), Malgorzata Szumowska’s Never Gonna Snow Again (co-directed with Michal Englert) also deals with themes of mortality and the metaphysical. 

It is as poetic as it sounds, a meditative work of quietness, and occasionally, disquiet, as Zhenia, a mysterious Ukrainian man enters a Polish town and works his charm on a gated community of oddball residents. 

He is a massage therapist with inner powers (there is an unmissable reference to that last scene in Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979)), who leaves behind his sad past and tries to come to terms with who he is in the present. 

With an eye for artful shots and almost trance-like transitions between scenes of reality, hallucination and memory, Never Gonna Snow Again is largely immersive as an experience and should impress arthouse viewers to some degree. 

“I heard hypnosis can be very helpful.”

However, despite the strong characterisations and a floaty narrative that seems destined to soar to some profound revelation or implode in an unexpected fashion, the film leaves us with not much to grasp, unsure and vague about what it wants to say about the world or humankind. 

There is a kind of a ‘meh’ ambiguity to it all that sometimes plague even the best intentions of the filmmaker.  Nevertheless, in terms of mood and atmosphere, Never Gonna Snow Again is top-notch.  Even in scenes where suspension of disbelief may be required, it feels natural. 

The title also suggests something apocalyptic might happen, though we rarely feel any threat of that sort happening, even as certain conversations inevitably point to the Chernobyl disaster.  Zhenia, it seems, is not a harbinger of doom—or perhaps he is, and is there to provide temporary solace to the people who need it the most.

Grade: B


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