Written for RAF News April 2016
Taking place during the height of the Cold War, Despite the Falling Snow follows the relationship between rising Soviet politician Alexander Ivanov (Sam Reid) and the new love of his life Katya (Rebecca Ferguson), an entrancingly seductive Russian spy who gets a little closer than she intends to, falling for her target and jeopardising her mission.
This story is intercut with Alexander decades later in New York, now played with authoritative command in Charles Dance, as his niece Lauren (also played by Rebecca Ferguson) plans a trip to Moscow to exhibit some of her political artwork including a portrait of the woman who shares her likeness. Here she will end up uncovering some of her uncle’s past, finding herself tangled up in the same web of lies and deception, before finding the truth of what happened to Katya back in 1959.
Adapting her best-selling novel for the screen and directing herself, Shamim Sarif brings sensitivity and tenderness to the relationship of Alexander and Katya. Particularly in the character of Alexander, played by Sam Reid as broad-shouldered and square jawed but gentle and naive. At first it seems like this doesn’t match the character at all, at least not how Charles Dance plays him later in life, but it becomes clear that this softness of touch is defining of Alexander’s sensibility and ultimately his undoing.
Perhaps down to the adaptation the dialogue is often clunky and unnatural, and though it can a sometimes feel like a television drama the story of these two lovers tied to opposing forces is compelling, with twists and turns in both timelines. The performances are befitting of their characters, especially a vodka-soaked cameo from Anthony Head which shouldn’t be missed.