LAFF: Ashes in the Snow Review

Ashes in the Snow - Bel Powley

World War II has been such a black mark in human history. It has given us so many inspiring tales but it has also given us some of the biggest atrocities in human history. Yet there are some tales that aren’t as known to American audiences. One of these moments is the Russian invasion of the Baltics and the imprisonment of its people. That’s the premise of the historical drama, Ashes in the Snow. But is Ashes in the Snow a worthy adaptation of “Between Shades of Grey?”

In a way it is, but it’s not a perfect film. Despite several story and pacing issues, the film is still an inspiring tale about the strength of the human spirit.

Ashes in the Snow follows Lina, a 16-year-old girl whose family is deported to Siberia amidst Stalin’s dismantling of the Baltic region.

Ashes in the Snow - Bel Powley & Jonah Hauer-King

Ashes in the Snow is an eye-opener of a film. In a weird way, it feels kind of like a historical documentary. This is a historical event that very few people know about. After all, this isn’t something that you learn in your high school history class. So every event and every action that happens in the film essentially becomes a history lesson. Were there some cinematic liberties taken? Probably.

However, there has to be a lot of truth to the film. So the atrocities that the Russians inflict on the Baltics are heinous, to say the least. Thankfully, it’s not as awful as the Holocaust but it’s much more serious than the Japanese internment camps. As heartbreaking as the film’s events are, it’s inspiring to see the human spirit triumph over major adversity. Much of that has to do with Lina’s character arc. She goes from innocent and naive to strong and resilient. Essentially, we get our strength through her journey.

Unfortunately, the film drags in a lot of places. There are many times where the film dwells on something for quite a while. Whether it’s a scene or an act, the film focuses on that subject for a while. As a result, the film feels longer than it should be. In addition, the film also introduces a few characters in the film and never do anything with them. Even though it seems as if they’re going to play a major part in the film, they’re just phased out.

Also, the relationship between Lina and Andrius happens quite suddenly. There isn’t much build up to their relationship. Everything just happens so suddenly, which is odd since the film takes its time in many places but this story element. Regardless, it’s still nice to see a little bit of humanity in this miserable world.

Ashes in the Snow - Lisa Loven Kongsli & Martin Wallstrom

Lina and Andrius’ relationship isn’t the only thing that happens suddenly too. The heel turn that happens with Nikolai also happens suddenly. The film has built up Nikolai to be the only sympathetic character on the Russian side. However, his turn happens so suddenly that it seems out of place for his character. So the only sympathetic Russian character in the film isn’t so sympathetic anymore.

Bel Powley is a bit of an anomaly in this film. Essentially, Powley doesn’t bring much to the table. She gives a wooden performance with a small amount of emotional output. However, the stronger her character gets then the better her performance becomes. She stops giving a wooden performance and starts showing the strength and resilience of her character. It seems as if she’s not afraid anymore.

Not only is Lisa Loven Kongsli is the pillar of the family but she’s the pillar of the film as well. During the times when Powley is giving a wooden performance, Kongsli gives a strong performance as Elena. However, as the film goes on Kongsli pulls back on her performance in order to let Powley shine more. After all, this is Lina’s film.

Martin Wallström is fantastic as Nikolai Kretzsky. Because Kretzsky is the most layered character in the film, he goes through so many emotions and provides the film with a multi-layered performance.

Overall, Ashes in the Snow is an enlightening film about the darkest time in Lithuanian history. The film displays all of the trials and tribulations of those imprisoned by the Red Army. However, there are quite a few issues with the film. Yet the film is still an inspiring film about the strength of the human spirit.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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