“Sno Babies” is a grim, unblinking look at the horrors of drug abuse, a “Scared Straight” for teens facing that first oxy tablet, that first dabble with the needle and the spoon.
It’s as heavy-handed as a faith-based sermon on the subject, with a Catholic setting, teen pregnancy and heroin tearing through a family. The affluent parents are too inattentive to see the signs, a Princeton-bound daughter lured into a secret life and addiction by a boy, and then a best-friend who got there before her.
The graphic depictions of “cooking,” of needles going in between infected toes, of date rape, an unwanted pregnancy and the many f-bombs in the dialogue seem to rule out Christian bookstore sales of this title.
We meet Kristen (Katie Kelly) in a lurid extreme close-up, the night her boyfriend offers her that first pill.
“What’s that?” “It’s oxy.” “What’s it do?” “Makes all your worries and problems disappear…”
Fifteen months later, Kristen is getting tutoring from Valerie (Meryl Jones Williams) to help her bump her SAT scores. But she’s spending a lot more time with Hannah (Paola Andino), who has pushed her into that transition from pills to needles.
It makes no difference that upper middle class suburban Catholic schoolgirls have “worries and problems” most of us would love to swap for our own. This is a partying crowd. Everybody’s buzzing. Some are throwing up.
When you’re that young, shooting up on a bed in the middle of a party must seem like no big thing.
We see the date rape coming long before Kristen does. She’s that far gone. And before long, she’s pregnant. Rather than share her shame with her distracted realtor-mom (Shannon Wilson), she lays all this on her sympathetic but reluctant tutor.
In a parallel story, Anna (Jane Stiles) and Matt (Michael Lombardi) are desperate to get pregnant. But he’s saddled with the nature preserve his dad passed down to him and his “Let’s SELL this” sister. The place is “hemorrhaging money,” and he can’t even prevent a coyote from killing all the other wildlife therein.
Director Bridget Smith and screenwriter Michael Walsh give us scattered bits of detail — Kristen’s adoring little sister, who gets nightmares and sleeps with her, Matt’s struggles with his conscience about selling the preserve, Anna’s laser-focus on having a baby, Kirsten and Hannah passing drug baggies off in line for communion at church.
There’s not a lot of subtlety in the ways they hammer these disparate stories elements into a single plot. When even a drug dealer preaches at pregnant Kristen, “subtlety” isn’t what you’re going for.
The date rape is somewhat graphic, the drug purchases and shooting-up scenes, even a police strip search, are pretty much step-by-step explainer scenes to show, in detail, the mental and physical degradation you’re buying into when you take up drugs.
That message has value. The acting’s good, too.
But the implausible twists in their plot dull the impact of their “Here’s what heroin will do to you” sermon. The sexuality is played up in ways that feel exploitative. The shifts in scene, characters and tone are abrupt and contrived.
I see that Smith and Walsh and some of their rep company have a Christmas movie in the works, which suggests that maybe they are working the faith-based side of the film business. If so, “Sno Babies” is the roughest entry in that genre that I’ve seen in years.
As somebody who’s long complained that faith-based dramas need a firmer footing in the real world, and maybe a little edge, it pains me to complain that “Sno Babies” takes such things entirely too far.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic drug abuse, rape, profanity
Cast: Katie Kelly, Paola Andino, Michael Lombardi, Shannon Wilson and Meryl Jones Williams.
Credits: Directed by Bridget Smith, script by Michael Walsh. A Better Noise release.
Running time: 1:49