I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even if it didn't quite go where I'd thought it would. I knew that it featured Sigourney Weaver as some sort of autistic women, living in the snow in Canada (a place called Wawa, as it happens). A review I read somewhere had said it was such a shame to use someone like Weaver to play such a limited character, but I have to disagree: playing Linda Freeman was no easy task. Yes, she's autistic, but that doesn't mean its easy to be her. Linda was what one character says is "high functioning, very verbal" - her autism comes through in her being someone who "doesn't do social", who won't be touched, who is obsessive about having everything just so in her kitchen (to the point that no-one is allowed in), who finds eating snow is a better experience than orgasm (at least as it was described to her by her daughter) and who is a curious mix of innocence and insight.
The film opens with a scruffy hitchhiker, it is unclear at first whether it is a man or a woman, bursting into a cafe and making her way (yes, it is a woman, Vivienne, Linda's daughter) to a table, at which Alex Hughes (Alan Rickman) is trying to read. She chirps away, to the point that he stomps off outside, obviously not keen to chat (in fact, he's told her this when she sat down "I sense that you're a very chatty sort of person. I'm not.") But he ends up giving her a lift - unfortunately, because there's a horrible accident and she's dead, just like that. It turns out that he has his demons he has being trying to erase, as his son was killed in a similar fashion, and Alex killed the driver - this cross country drive was some sort of quest he thought might still at least one demon.
And so Alex finds himself in Wawa, wanting to apologise to Linda ("Was it your fault?" "No." "There's nothing to say then") but getting caught up in her needs ("Vivienne always did the garbage. I can't touch it. Garbage day is Tuesday. You'll have to stay till Tuesday."). Then there's the need to get Vivienne's funeral arranged. The funeral itself was surprisingly sweet - I loved the bit where the priest is saying that the music is one of Vivienne's favourites, by a group by, and here he grimaces as if he couldn't believe in such a thing, the Super Furry Animals. The music overall was pretty good - Broken Social Scene did the majority of it, plus there were tracks by the Stereophonics (Alex was listening to this through some pretty full on looking headhpones), Feist and Tori Amos among others. There's one song that gets Linda dancing joyfully - we hear it first as Alan approaches her house and again at the wake - according to someone at IMDB its "Kitaka sassa" by Takemi Kakizaki, who sings Min'yo (folk) songs from mainly northern Japan. While she's dancing to this song, Linda can imagine she's dancing with Vivienne.
There's no ceremony or silliness with Linda, just this practical need to have the garbage taken out next Tuesday, so Alex will have to stay. The movie itself doesn't make a big deal about autism - it is just a feature of Linda's character, as much as being a nuclear power plant worker is for Homer. And she's really rather lovely - one of the best moments in the movie was when she managed to get Alex, who's pretty repressed, onto the trampoline. But the movie doesn't do the obvious thing, and see Alex's arrival in her life cause some big flowering into sexuality(in fact, one reason for calling the movie Snow Cake is that Alex gives her a whole cake made out of snow - a present she appreciated much more than the mega cookie her neighbour made for her, unaware she is gluten intolerant.)
But, for reasons I don't really get, Alex gets to have a brief affair with another neighbour, Maggie; this bordered on the gratuitous. It did, I suppose, help Alex come to the realisation that, what with Maggie and Linda in his life, he could see himself staying. And maybe he does - all the movie shows us is him continuing on his journey, a much happier man, with some possibility he'll be back.