Review: Never Gonna Snow Again – Sniegu juz nigdy nie bedzie (2020)


Never Gonna Snow Again – Sniegu juz nigdy nie bedzie (2020)

Directed by: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert | 113 minutes | drama | Actors: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza, Weronika Rosati, Katarzyna Figura, Lukasz Simlat, Andrzej Chyra, Krzysztof Czeczot, Maciej Drosio, Olaf Marchwicki, Astrid Nanowska, Wojciech Starosteckiier, Konzystantins Solowiow

Where the Netherlands sometimes complains about a Polish invasion of labor migrants, Poland in turn complains about its eastern neighbours. Main character Zhenia in ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ belongs to that accused group. He is from Ukraine and sells massages door to door. Lately, Zhenia has mostly been working in a gated community that resembles a decadent performance of a Dutch Vinex neighborhood. He slowly builds up his clientele there until Zhenia serves a small cult of mostly lonely housewives.

‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ starts off a bit messy, but once the film picks up its pace, this mishmash of comedy and drama is captivating and at times quite eerie. The story focuses on the new prosperity in Poland and the uniformity of civilian life in a Vinex-like residential island. The gated community, where Zhenia does his work, consists of countless shielded virgin white houses that are guarded day and night, probably also by migrants. Moreover, in this paradise for the upper middle class, there is no bakery, community center or anything else that facilitates a sense of community.

Zhenia’s perspective makes you understand how ugly life in the gated community can be. There is suffering behind every front door. Adultery, illness, jealousy, greed and trauma seem to be the most normal course of events. Through the Ukrainian masseur, customers gossip about their neighbors around the corner. For example, Zhenia is almost the only connection between the residents of the gated community and society outside it.

Moreover, the residents of the luxurious Vinex neighborhood are more dependent on the poorer outside world than they would like to admit. And not only to support the hectic combination of career and family life in their spacious villas, but also for small happiness. With its massages, Zhenia relieves the residents of daily stress and further pain among the members. In addition, he gives some customers extra attention because of often absent partners.

In addition, ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ attributes mysterious powers to Zhenia. Zhenia himself believes that this is because he grew up near the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl. The film does not consider whether Zhenia actually has supernatural abilities and embraces forms of spirituality that you will not easily find in comparable satires on the Western European middle class. ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ is a kind of ‘Charlatan’ (Agnieszka Holland, 2020), but on a smaller scale.

Actor Alec Utgoff who plays Zhenia comes across as both soothing and unsettling. This is a pretty thin line to walk. However, Utgoff passes with flying colors and this achievement certainly makes him someone to keep an eye on. This also applies to director Malgorzata Szumowksa, because there is not a much more surprising film about today’s Polish middle class than this one. Her film ‘Cialo’ (2015), which won Szumowksa the Silver Bear for best director at the Berlinale, also shares her fascination with the sick body and the supernatural.

All in all, ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ slowly grabs the viewer with its arcane tone and leaves you slyly confused. Nevertheless, some things go a bit flat, for example the dream sequences are cliché and the language jokes between the Ukrainian immigrant and the Poles do not work here. However, this is a minor blemish on the film. ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ is ultimately a wonderful mishmash of tones and genres. Magic realism and satire don’t usually go hand in hand, but here they do.