This may be screenwriter Angela Pell’s first screenplay, but apart from the odd tonal stumble you’d be hard-pushed to tell. By calling on her own bittersweet experience as a parent of an autistic child, she crafts a touching, redemptive and frequently laugh-out-loud study of acceptance, grief and the beauty found in the small things in life. The real draw here is the acting pedigree of the two leads. Rickman and Weaver both remind us how good they are, while director Marc Evans – capturing both intimate character beats and the glacial beauty of Canada – proves his versatility: this is a world away from My Little Eye.
Rickman fleshes out his trademark laconic apathy with careful nuances as a recently-released jailbird weighed down with guilt from two senseless deaths. “I don’t have baggage, I have haulage,” he tells Linda’s neighbour Maggie (Carrie-Anne Moss) as he begins a tender affair with her, and it’s evident in his every shrinking move – his usual brittle delivery softened to a cadence of exasperation, equal parts comedy and sadness. When a chirpy shop assistant tells him his choice of glasses makes him look like a serial killer, his “Thank you” is so funny you wonder how he managed to be so inventive with just two words, while the initial interchanges between him and Linda are densely layered with shattering awkwardness and remorse.
It is, of course, inevitable that his stoicism melts along with the roadside drifts in the face of Linda’s childlike delight, but it’s a pleasure to see Rickman’s practiced schtick thaw enough to allow real characterisation to show through. Weaver, meanwhile, manages to play a potentially showy role with welcome subtlety. She’s great when barking out Linda’s observations on life (“An orgasm sounds like an inferior version of what I feel when I have a mouthful of snow”), gleefully bouncing on a trampoline or showing her alienation from the community at a funeral wake. It’s a performance free of both vanity and cliché, that in a bigger, studio-backed picture might trouble Oscar. As it is, the actors may simply have to settle for the satisfaction of making an audience feel.