They aren’t the leads, but Brett Cullen and Lesley Ann Warren pretty much carry “It Snows all the Time,” an old-fashion, solid but stolid look at the blow dementia deals a blow to an Omaha family.
Back when Warren, who first gained fame as Cinderella in a 1960s TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” and Cullen (of TV’s “Falcon Crest” and more recently, “The Black List”) were starting out, “Snows” would’ve been labeled a “Disease of the Week” movie — the sort of well-cast, informative and if you were lucky moving production the TV networks used to roll out 40 times a year.
Today, we’re too enlightened to use that label. But “Snows” still makes a terrific “explainer,” showing us the signs — which most of his family doesn’t pick up on, or slip into denial over — that patriarch Paul has developed dementia at 58.
The story is seen through the eyes of his Big City son Jesse (Eric Hover, who based the story on his own family), who comes home to Omaha after a long absence to notice Dad is “different.”
He’s wanders off mid conversation and seems distracted pretty much every waking moment. What’s worse, he worked up over the wrong football teams on the tube.
“He likes them now,” is all Jesse’s slacker younger brother (Sterling Knight), who dropped out of college and lives at home, says.
“I keep waiting for him to snap out of it,” their mother (Warren) says. Not that she’s under any illusions. Brother Artie is to self-involved to notice. Their older brother Tony (director and co-writer Jay Gannione) may have noticed, but as he and his wife are expecting a baby and he’s a bit fond of the phrase “It’s in God’s hands,” he’s shrugged it off.
But Jesse sees the yard that’s gone to seed, the confused way his father reacts to long-familiar intersections while driving and the general absent-mindedness that seems to have taken over.
Not that Jesse, who gets an earful of “You’re NEVER here” from his siblings, leaps to the right conclusion. Not at first. At least he’s in town to help his mother talk Dad into a follow-up visit with a specialist, try to help Dad fix his 1940s Ford pickup and arm-twist the clueless Artie to help him tidy up the yard.
Paul? He’s having an impossible time just focusing his eyes in the right direction or remembering what he’s supposed to be doing. But an old blessing his long-dead father used to say before meals? That he has no trouble recalling.
Cullen anchors “It Snows all the Time” in a rock-solid reality. He’s deep into character, with eyes, gestures and a kind of antic impatience that can be symptomatic of dementia. If you keep moving, maybe it’ll all come back to you, or maybe nobody else will notice what you can’t quite put your finger on.
Warren walks an interesting line between dread and denial. Whatever their sons haven’t figured out, she’s not been willing to come right out and say, and certainly not say to Jesse on the phone.
Nothing here is totally new in the way the screen treats dementia. And the sidebars — Jesse confronted by the girl he left behind (Taryn Manning), his lovelife in LA (“a model”), brother Artie’s ever-irritating laziness and refusal to see the crisis right in front of him that he should be pitching in with — are as played-out as the new baby meets the old-before-his-time grandpa, wandering in the fog.
But Cullen and Warren give this drama a gravitas and poignance that transcends the trite formula “It Snows all the Time” never strays from.
Rating: unrated, some profanity, adult themes
Cast: Eric Hover, Brett Cullen, Lesley Ann Warren, Jay Giannone, Sterling Knight, John Beasley, Tatyana Ali and Taryn Manning.
Credits: Directed by Jay Giannone, scripted by Jay Giannone and Eric Watson. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:30