The Autism of "Snow Cake"
But the main reason this movie is always going to stick in my mind is that it caused me to go to bed last night wondering whether and waking up this morning thinking that possibly, just possibly, autism, usually regarded as being a dreaded condition of a small but ever-increasing number of children, might actually be a viable alternative life style -- at least as it was presented here, in an adult stage, by possibly Sigourney Weaver's best screen performance ever.
She plays the unlikely autistic mother of an equally appealing non-autistic teenage daughter, who hitchhikes a ride to Wawa with a grim Britisher played by Alan Rickman. But on the way a big truck smashes into the side of the car, killing the girl -- my only beef with this film. It makes no sense to build up a highly interesting character and then kill her off just moments into the story. As much as anything, I would have very much liked to have seen the girl interacting with her mother later.
Already devastated, as we learn later, by the recent death, by another car accident, of his only son whom he has never seen but had been on his way to meeting, Rickman decides to pay his respects to the girl's mother, while bringing her some small gifts that her daughter had bought for her. Because of the relationship that he develops not only with Weaver but also with one of her neighbors, a free-spirited woman that the Weaver character despises, he ends up staying in Wawa till after the funeral.
The upshot is that thereby he not only learns valuable things about the nature of autism but also is left better prepared to go on to see the woman in Winnipeg with whom a dalliance of years ago had resulted in the birth of that son that he never got to see.
I already knew a little about autism because the wife of H., my gun-loving neighbor, has been teaching autistic children for many years in the public schools, and in particular just recently I had a long discussion with her about the various aspects of that condition after I recorded on DVD for her the recent movie that was shown on HBO called "Autism the Musical." As my attitude toward musicals is such that even autism isn't enough to make me look at one all the way through, I saw only small parts of that film. But I can't wait to ask whether she has seen this one.
After seeing "Snow Cake," and in accordance with what I've otherwise heard, I'm wondering if autism might not actually be a logical if somewhat excessive reaction to the essential chaos and unnecessary complexities and difficulties of normal life. So in response some people, beginning as children and never actually going far from that early stage of human development, stake everything on imposing absolute order and honesty on all that chaos and subterfuge. Normal people who find it necessary to fight off the barbarians who ceaselessly threaten, themselves become barbarians, and autistic people will have none of it.
After having noted closely everything that Weaver did in this film, I have even begun to wonder if, all along, I haven't been somewhat autistic myself, except on a more acquiescent, and therefore basically more dishonest and impure level. I, too, like to impose order on things, though chaos and random effects are equally as attractive to me. I, too, am capable of blurting out insults based entirely on my concept of utter truthfulness, but only once in a very great while, though they come to my mind all the time. Whenever I see words on signs, my mind works hard on the letters in the longer words while I try to see if they can't be grouped in some form of symmetry, and feeling that something is inherently wrong with the universe when they can't. I, too, like the Weaver character, am attracted by little, bright, sparkly, colorful things. I wouldn't mind being healthy and wise, but I think wealth is a state of criminality, and that's just the beginning.
I think things like this as I contemplate how this latter stage of life is always threatened by Alzheimer's instead, and as I wonder if that might not be a long delayed stage of autism. Maybe, as in everything else, I have been distinguished from being a true autistic only by my slow rate of speed in everything.
The title of this film, by the way, refers to a cake made entirely of the snow (the Weaver character can't stand anything with gluten in it) from her back yard that Rickman leaves for her in her freezer compartment. Till then she hasn't always tolerated him, but, realizing how this shows that he has come to understand and to accept her for who she is after all, she is absolutely delighted with that simple gift, and she begins devouring the cake at once.