Never Gonna Snow Again harnesses is an oddball, observational film that manages to comment on much without veering into obviousness.
Premiering at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, Never Gonna Snow Again is the latest from prolific director Malgorzata Szumowska, who has teamed up with her frequent collaborator, DP Michael Englert, to bring us a uniquely amusing comedy about a man with special powers. The story revolves around Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), whose role as a masseur for the wealthy inhabitants of a gated community in Poland leads him to become heavily involved in the lives of his clientele. Never Gonna Snow Again plays out rather like an oddball 21st-century version of Shampoo (1975), with Utgoff’s Zhenia something of an equivalent of Warren Beatty’s hen-pecked hairdresser, calling on several neurotic women and — rather than sleeping with them — massaging or hypnotizing them. It’s a strange premise, yet this quirky comedy about the bourgeoisie finds a put it all together.
Szumowska’s command of the film’s wry tone works to accentuate jokes about first-world problems, which involve incompetent takeaway delivery services, doorbells set to the tune of classical compositions, and the uniformly characterless nature of newly-built housing estates. Much is made of Zhenia’s history, as we learn he was born in Chernobyl seven years before the nuclear disaster, and Szumowska draws attention to anti-Ukrainian sentiment within Poland (a by-product of the checkered past between the two countries), but subverts any narrative of Zhenia’s exposure to radiation by approaching the whole thing from a decidedly positive bent. She treats Zhenia as a guardian angel of sorts, shrouded in mystery; rather than develop the interiority necessary for a character study, she directs her concerns to the impact he has on those around him. The repetitive nature of the story may become a little mundane for some, but if Never Gonna Snow Again slightly overstays its welcome, Szumowska’s idiosyncratic style still makes for an overall worthwhile experience.
Originally published as part of London Film Festival 2020 — Dispatch 3.