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From Never Gonna Snow Again (2020), dir. Malgorzata Szumowska (image courtesy Kino Lorber)

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In Never Gonna Snow Again, Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska combines the social realism she’s known for — marked by a dry, laconic tone — with a mystical plot. Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a young Russian-born masseuse/healer, services clients in a wealthy Polish gated community who suffer various forms of grief, loneliness, and unfulfillment. They include a frustrated housewife (the superb Maja Ostaszewska), an eco-conscious widowed intellectual (Agata Kulesza), a dying man (Lukasz Simlat), a repressed soldier (Andrzej Chyra), and a dog-obsessed gourmand (Katarzyna Figura). Zhenia becomes their confidant, and with his hypnotic powers, this outsider nudges the denizens of this high-class bubble toward self-awareness. He becomes a mysterious redeemer, his inscrutability exposing the moral frailty of those around him.

Szumowska sprinkles satire of affluence throughout, such as in shots of community guards zipping around on scooters, or in the casual xenophobia Zhenia faces. In a clear reference to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker — another vision of a post-apocalyptic world that can only be redeemed by profound belief — the enigmatic youth moves a glass with his gaze. The way in which Szumowska remixes the divine and the existential also recalls the moral fables of Krzysztof Kieślowski, particularly his soul-searching series Decalogue. And though, unlike Kieślowski, Never Gonna Snow Again reassures us at the end that the world is redeemable — snow does in fact fall — its underlying ambivalence about societal and familial bonds radiates disquiet.

Never Gonna Snow Again is now in select theaters and virtual cinemas.

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Ela Bittencourt

Ela Bittencourt is a critic and cultural journalist, currently based in São Paulo. She writes on art, film and literature, often in the context of social issues and politics.

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