Starring: Mario Casas, Macarena García, Adriana Ugarte
Director: Fernando González Molina
Running Time: 163 mins
Palm Trees In The Snow (Palmeras en la nieve) is a Spanish film about the story of a family and their life in Spanish Guinea, and the woman who sets out to Africa in present day to discover their incredible history.
An epic, romantic historical drama of a lifetime in the vein of classic Hollywood epics, the ambition of Palm Trees In The Snow is not to be underestimated, nor is its impressive intentions to subvert the classic genre and adapt it to the modern day. In all of that, however, it proves a frustratingly over-sentimental and often hyperbolic drama that really lacks in genuine emotional depth and connection, something that makes it a rather exhausting watch over the course of its near three-hour runtime.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because there are still a good few positives to look at here, the biggest of which comes in the form of the film’s lead performances. Despite a rather large ensemble cast, the lead turns from Mario Casas, Macarena García and Alain Hernández are engrossing and convincing throughout, impressively staying away from the emotional hyperbole that unfortunately plagues the film’s screenplay.
Those three leads all play characters whose main story plays out in the past, brought to life by old letters being rediscovered in the present day, and it’s their performances that really make that side of the story work really rather well, with the love triangle that plays out between the trio over the course of the first act the film’s dramatic highlight.
Another plus here is lies in the film’s attempts to change up the classic romantic epic, and drag it a little closer to the present day. As a result, while the core story is still one that’s been largely present in Hollywood since 1939, it takes some welcome steps to lend more attention to the realities of its historical period. Rather than solely centring on the loves and lives of its core characters, there’s a lot more intrigue and focus on the people of then-Spanish Guinea, and how their lives played out alongside the main story, something that gives this film a more rounded and equally grounded feel than many classics of the genre.
However, there’s no denying that Palm Trees In The Snow is a little bit of a bloated movie, and while it attempts to bring together the three key genres of a period romance, a historical drama and a journey back through the memories of a family, it really misses the mark, and ultimately plays out as a rather disconnected and simply overlong watch.
So, while that period romance is engaging, and the historical focuses prove interesting too, the way that they’re balanced with the present day story – that is a descendant of the family retracing their story – really doesn’t work. Particularly over the first hour or so, the film is 90% focused on the period drama, with very little attention being given to the woman in present day.
Now, that was fine by me at the time, given the intrigue of the period story, but the present day story starts to take up a lot more screen time through the second and third acts, yet with nowhere near enough character establishment to allow you to draw a strong emotional connection through time between these two stories.
The film knows this, and as such turns into a far more melodramatic and over-sentimental affair through its latter two acts, with a number of big emotional scenes proving hyperbolic peaks to a journey through family history that just isn’t all that riveting, and lacks the ultimate emotional payoff to really be considered a worthy element of the story as a whole – and a worthy reason for the film to go on for nearly three hours.
As a result, I found myself really rather bored by the end of Palm Trees In The Snow, and while it is a film that certainly has merit in its performances and period setting, it’s one that takes an overly simplistic direction and executes it poorly, relying too heavily on melodrama and tenuous, generic emotional links throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6 overall.