Director: Mark Fergus.
Screenplay: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby.
Starring: Guy Pearce, J.K. Simmons, Piper Perabo, William Fichtner, Shea Wigham, Rick Gonzalez, Steven Michael Quezada, Adam Scott, Jackie Burroughs, David House, Luce Rains.
“Your fate lies on whatever road you take. Even if you choose to run from it”
Guy Pearce is a very talented actor that hasn’t quite achieved the leading man credentials he so thoroughly deserves. However, he still has a knack for choosing great roles. The real gems among his work tends to be lower budget indie fair. Some can hit the quality heights of Memento or L.A. Confidential and reach a mass audience while others become respectful career choices that tend to slip under the radar. Personally, I think Pearce’s choices are always very interesting and First Snow is a prime example of his astute eye for a good role and project.
Jimmy Starks (Pearce) is a cocky salesman who’s car breaks down outside a desolate New Mexico town. To pass the time he pays a visit to a roadside fortune teller (J.K. Simmons). Although skeptical, Jimmy soon realises that the psychic is no con man and he’s told that his future is very bleak. In fact, he’s told that his life will come to an end when the first snow arrives, leaving Jimmy to explore how his fate will be sealed.Making his directorial debut, screenwriter Mark Fergus (Children of Men, Iron Man) sets his stall up with a metaphysical tale that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twilight Zone episode. The premise is simple (but all the more effective for it) and there are elements that also bring reminders of Pearce’s Leonard Shelby from Memento. With a similar claustrophobic edge, his character is holed up in his apartment – or the occasional motel room – having anxious discussions on the telephone that may or may not seal his fate. It’s this psychological angle that really benefits this impressive and intriguingly abstract neo-noir.It’s very well shot and the always reliable Pearce adds another solid character to his résumé. He shows great range and holds the whole film together with his ability to switch from cocksure arrogance to paranoid wreck and has you delighted when it comes to watching him squirm. Pearce’s effortless range really brings his character to the fore but what also works is it’s haunting atmosphere and ability to maintain it’s eeriness and mystery on such a low-key scale.It’s a slow burner that explores the theoretical themes of predestination and self-determination and has you constantly wondering how events will pan out for our conscience-stricken protagonist. Unfortunately, the destination of his repentant road doesn’t end as well as it should. After such a gripping build up, the pay-off feels rushed and unsatisfactory but up until this point it’s a very involving thriller.An impressive feature debut from Mark Fergus and on this evidence it’s a shame that he hasn’t stepped behind the camera since. The ending may let it down but this is still a taut, psychological mystery that deserves to receive a wider audience.Mark Walker