Despite the Falling Snow (2 stars)

Despite the Falling Snow

Rebecca Ferguson stars in a tale of ho-hum espionage and similarly lacklustre romance

This Cold War romance weaves between Moscow in 1959 – 61, when a spy called Katya (Rebecca Ferguson) seduces and marries well-placed young Kremlin bureaucrat Alexander (Sam Reid) but falls in lurve with him, and the same city in 1992, when New Yorker Lauren (also Ferguson, with a wavering accent) arrives seeking the truth about the fate of her lookalike aunt, whose memory still haunts Old Uncle Alexander (Charles Dance). Linking the two time periods are flashbacks to Katya’s scheme to escape to the West and exactly how it went awry, as we learn it did at the beginning of the film. We are also teased by the visits of we-know-not-whom to a mysterious grave.

People drink a lot of vodka and take long walks in the snow between betrayals, unhappy reveals and ho-hum spy-craft (which consists almost exclusively of someone photographing plans to stuff and then passing the film to Katya) that doesn’t yield many thrills, or have any apparent practical relevance to the arms or space races. No one ever mentions Khrushchev, JFK, the U-2 incident, Cuba or anything else that would connect this to reality, or pep up the monotony. It’s as if a quickly discarded, crumpled-up concept was pilfered from John le Carré’s waste basket by a romance novelist.

British writer-director Shamim Sarif (The World Unseen), adapting her own 2004 novel, occasionally gets cute with the visual gimmick of a ‘time slip’ – Ferguson’s 50s character walks out of shot as her 90s character walks into it – which introduces the odd Twilight Zone-esque touch. But there’s not enough chemistry between the principles to invest in the various relationships, the dialogue is crap (‘My God, what have I done?’), and the 90s revelations and romantic complications never build to the kind of big emotional payoff they promise.

Selected release from Fri 15 Apr.

Despite the Falling Snow

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • UK, Canada
  • 1h 33min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Shamim Sarif
  • Written by: Shamim Sarif
  • Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Charles Dance, Antje Traue
  • UK release: 15 April 2016

In Moscow 1959, a spy named Katya (Ferguson) romances a young Kremlin bureaucrat (Reid); in Moscow 1992, Katya's niece Lauren (also Ferguson) seeks the truth about her aunt via elderly Alexander (Dance). Humdrum spy-themed romance with lots of long walks in the snow, unhappy reveals and crap dialogue, which never build to…