On a cold afternoon, with snow on the ground, a high school band is practicing for the last football game, when they hear gunshots. The film abruptly flashes back to a few weeks before, to a Chinese restaurant where a high school boy named Arthur buses tables, and his ex-babysitter, Annie, and her best friend, Barb, are waitresses. Arthur, who's a bit of a misfit, has a troubled home life caused by his constantly clashing parents, both of whom often forget about him. Annie's life isn't faring much better: she's now a single mother with an ill mother, separated from her husband, Glenn, who's on the wagon and becoming a born-again Christian in order to prove that he is responsible enough to spend time with their young daughter, Tara. Depressed and lonely, Annie is having an affair with Barb's husband, Nate, which eventually serves to only make her unhappier, as she feels great guilt over betraying her best friend. Desperate to prove himself and still harboring feelings for his estranged wife (whom he suspects is seeing someone), Glenn gets a new job and spends as much time as possible with Tara. Meanwhile, Arthur finds himself growing close to Lila, a new student at the high school who has a knack for photography.
The film focuses heavily on how people's lives can cross in a small town, especially when Tara wanders out of the house and goes missing while Annie, having just lost her best friend over the affair, is sleeping. The whole town spends hours desperately searching for Tara, before Arthur finds her body while smoking pot with his friend. To Annie's horror, Tara fell into the lake while playing and drowned when the water froze over. This turn of events leads to Glenn and Annie having complete breakdowns, which results in her going with him into the snow-covered woods, where she placidly kneels before his shotgun, ending with their murder-suicide.Kate Beckinsale as Annie Marchand
Sam Rockwell as Glenn Marchand
Michael Angarano as Arthur Parkinson
Jeanetta Arnette as Louise Parkinson
Griffin Dunne as Don Parkinson
Nicky Katt as Nate Petite
Tom Noonan as Mr. Chervenick
Connor Paolo as Warren Hardesky
Amy Sedaris as Barb Petite
Olivia Thirlby a Lila Raybern
Gracie Hudson as Tara Marchand
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 68% approval rating with an average rating of 6.8/10 based on 110 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "With fine acting and considerable emotional depth, Snow Angels aptly captures the highs, and especially the lows of human relationships." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 67 out of 100, based on 28 reviews.
Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer called the film "a compelling, and grim, portrait of small-town lives gone wrong", "disturbingly good", while also writing, "the film's characters get inside your skin, your soul. It's enough to make you want to cry." Richard Corliss of Time wrote, "The film's success is due in large part to actors who are both faithful to all the social minutiae and seductive enough to keep you watching." He also praised director David Gordon Green for his gift, "to show how people learn codes of affection and aggression from watching movies, but when they try to pull them off in crucial situations they come out awkward, embarrassed and futile."
The film appeared on some critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008. Marc Mohan of The Oregonian named it the 4th best film of 2008, and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune named it the 8th best film of 2008.
Among the critics who gave the film a negative review was Kyle Smith of the New York Post, who gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, calling the film, "funny, beautifully written, nicely observed, sweetly familiar. For the first half", and felt, "the film's change of key in the second half feels like a betrayal."
The film opened in limited release in the United States on March 7, 2008 and grossed $14,247 in two theaters its opening weekend.
Warner Home Video released Snow Angels on DVD on September 16, 2008 on a single disc in widescreen and full screen versions.