For a comedy-drama that hovers between life and death, Never Gonna Snow Again is achingly beautiful. Szumowska and Engerlt paint it with light. They peer through doorways and windows like Vermeer, but on ice: frequently desaturated and then abruptly pierced with gold. Dancing between the dark and light is immigrant masseur Zhenia (Utgoff), born into the shadows of Chernobyl and rumoured to have magic in his fingertips.

Outsider Zhenia quickly builds a following among his Polish clients. Szumowska and Engerlt aren’t subtle with their stereotypes, though the tone is rarely judgemental and the performances ring consistently crisp and true. The raging soldier. The drunk wife, straying husband, and children either silent or violent. The real magic comes from the touches of wry humour: a caustic widow juddering with laughter at her cold, distant son when he sings like an angel in the school choir.

The scope is everything: the physical state of the world, the absurdity of prejudice, the inevitability of illness and death. Zhenia very literally gets to grip with the body, but is quickly asked to turn the same healing on the mind. In turn, each of his clients visit their own mental forest, where they grapple with seeing the wood for the trees.

Throughout, we’re accompanied by bursts of classical music, eerie choral refrains and intense sounds from nature. It’s an altogether unsettling landscape, layered with trauma and loss, but in the irrepressible light there are welcome signals of life and hope.

The dreamlike cinematography and direction invite disparate elements, from surrealism to satire, to blend seamlessly. It’s an elegant plea to pay attention; to sit in at least awareness of our own contradictions and hypocrisies, and to plough our energies into more growth than destruction. Perhaps in moments it’s a little po-faced, but you quickly forgive that in favour of sinking into its pine-scented reverie.

RATING: 4/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza, Weronika Rosati, Katarzyna Figura, Andrzej Chyra, Lukasz Simlat

DIRECTORS: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert

WRITERS: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert

SYNOPSIS: Immigrant masseur Zhenia brings what might be magical powers of healing from a childhood in the shadow of Chernobyl to an affluent gated community in Poland.