I love the way director Martín Hodara folds his flashbacks, seamlessly, into the fictive present in “Black Snow.” “Nieve Negra,” as it is titled in Spanish, is another polished, stark thriller from Argentina, and the feature directing debut from this career second-unit chief obviously knows his craft.
The worn and world-weary screen presence of Ricardo Darín (“The Secret in their Eyes,” “Truman”) has become as sure a guarantee of “quality” as any actor in the South American cinema.
The plot? That’s the weakest link in this frosty thriller about family tragedy, grudges and guilt.
Marcos (Leonardo Sbaraglia of “Pain and Glory”) and his pregnant wife Laura (Laia Costa of “Maine” and “Duck Butter”) have come to Argentina from Spain to settle his father’s affairs. The old man has died and there’s property to contend with.
“The Canadians” have made an offer for their land. But his estranged father has left a last request, that his ashes be buried with Juan, a brother whom we’ve seen killed in some sort of hunting incident in the prologue.
Thirty years have passed, and as unsettling as being back in these mountains is to Marcos, there’s nothing for it but to do as his father wished, especially since there’s a recalcitrant, reclusive brother (Darín) living in a cabin on that land, which is worth a lot of money if he can be talked into agreeing to sell it all.
“I thought we could have a coherent conversation,” he offers (in Spanish, with English subtitles). Salvador? He’s pointing a gun at him at the time.
The cabin and the sibling prompt flashbacks — sometimes in the form of dreams — about what really happened that winter hunt long ago. There’s a third sibling, a sister, in a mental institution and a newspaper clipping about “an avalanche” that tells Laura, and us, that what really happened was covered up. The only two people who know the truth are out here, in the wilderness, casting dark accusatory looks in each other’s direction.
Darín has the showiest role, a man wrecked by what happened long ago, embittered by it and not letting go of any grudge attached to it, especially against their father.
But the plot doesn’t deliver much in the line of mystery or suspense. The script, by Hodara and Leonel D’Agostino, has some twists, not all of which are strung out in the most cinematically effective manner.
“Black Snow” benefits most from its striking wintry setting, the ways this family’s sea of troubles seem anchored in that land and its secret and Darín’s brooding turn as a man who left civilization and family behind because he had his reasons, some of which we can guess, a few which arrive as a shock.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, sex
Cast: Leonardo Sbaraglia, Laia Costa, Ricardo Darín
Credits: Directed by Martín Hodara script by Leonel D’Agostino, Martín Hodara. A Direct TV production on Netflix.
Running time: 1:31