Sno Babies follows two teenage girls — Kristen (Katie Kelly) and Hannah (Paola Andino), as they spiral in and out of heroin addiction in their middle class suburban town. It explores how their addiction came to be, how it remained hidden and its long-lasting impact. It also depicts sexual violence and the oppressive nature of the familial unit, but not with enough depth to say much meaningfully. The film also threads in stories following three other townspeople to create a fuller picture of this specific suburbia. Kristen’s mum, real estate agent Clare (Shannan Wilson), is on the brink of a promotion and therefore career-focused to the extreme; unable to notice her own daughter’s heroin addiction or pregnancy. Clare is trying to sell a house to money-strapped Matt (Michael Lombardi) and his wife Anna (Molly Logan Chase) who is struggling to get pregnant. Matt is the warden of a nature reserve that has been blighted by a mysterious animal on the loose that is hard for Matt to find or get rid of and that eventually ends up killing someone. This seems like a veiled metaphor but also does well to create an eerie undercurrent — if we didn’t already know something in this town wasn’t quite right.
The cast is great, particularly the lead Katie Kelly, but director Bridget Smith is the real star. Allowing the cast to be at their best, her secure and controlled direction leads us through the story; especially the wince-inducing scenes of the teenage girls shooting-up where we are placed close but not within, we are just bystanders observing with extreme empathy. The film intercuts anachronistic scenes together in a creative way of forming the story and focusing it on the town as a whole and how those people are connected.
Unfortunately, the writing is weak. Upon meeting the characters for the first time the dialogue is all clunky exposition, spelling out to us that Kristen wants to go to college, Clare is a pushy mother and Matt is worried about money. This makes the characters feel like contrived cliches. However, it does improve as the story grows and feels more comfortable with its characters, but there are some melodramatic moments in the film that are veered over the edge into a cliche by the music. The soundtrack is important to the film; the production company Better Noise Films is an offshoot of an independent record label founded by Mӧtley Crüe manager Allen Kovac and the film does have a certain musicality to it. However, the song choices sometimes feel shoe-horned in and make some moments feel insincere.
This is definitely true of the final act of the film. Themes that the film was exploring — like the suburban facade and the unforgiving cruelty of addiction — are spelled out in capital letters after an hour and a half of building them up. It feels like a high school anti-drug video, especially with moments like Kristen, with unnatural dialogue, explaining to her babysitter (acting as the audience surrogate) how and why her heroin addiction developed. Although the body of the film portrays addiction movingly well, the moments of far-fetched melodrama and cliche means the film probably wouldn’t even function very well as that high school anti-drug video.
Sno Babies will be available on VOD from September 29th
by Madeleine Sinclair
Madeleine (she/her) is a film student at the University of Winchester currently working on a dissertation on women killers in giallo films. She’s a big horror fan (the tackier the better) and also loves sci-fi and fantasy. Right now, she thinks her favourite films are Pan’s Labyrinth, The Wicker Man and Deep Red but she is also very indecisive. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @madeleinia and Letterboxd here