Directed by Alan Harding
Starring David Soltura, Andrew Whelbig
Short Film Review by Jack Gibbs
An America inhabited by strange, blue humanoid creatures, a young boy touched by powers beyond mortal comprehension, a series of absurdities and curiosities seen through the lens of an old camcorder and showing a land of the free that is patently baffling in more ways than one. This is the image that short film Special Snowflake presents to us, and if nothing else the resulting product is singularly unique because of it.
That sense of uniqueness also carries on into the narrative the film displays and the messages that lie beneath its quaint surface – it is pleasing to the eye with its vast array of pastel colours and overall style, but this little number puts all of its energy into the overarching idea present in the narrative framework, to both its benefit and detriment.
The plight of Elliot Thurman a boy who experienced a run-in with supernatural powers as he and near-faceless friend, recorder and protagonist Daniel (both voiced by David Soltura) attempt to contact aliens, proves to be a surprisingly effective look into the. Despite being rendered comatose his celebrity status propels him to unexpected heights of fame – “you’re definitely more popular in here than you ever were awake”, Daniel laconically notes – and his situation serves to whip the town into a religious, political and materialistic frenzy. Preachers claim that the return of the Messiah is imminent, Winner uses the boy as a centrepiece of his mayoral campaign, citizens send him deceased animals cocooned in wrapping paper in the hopes that they can be revived and miniature statues are produced for avid consumers to purchase en masse. The film is only a fleeting eight minutes long, but the depiction of how Elliot is viciously lionised and celebrated even while bedridden is genuinely striking, and Daniel says it best as we see rows of televisions soundlessly blaring behind a pane of glasses, as Winner voicelessly lauds Elliot for his own personal gain – “This town is mad.”
For the interesting qualities that the wider narrative possesses, however, the rest of Special Snowflake is unfortunately rather plain. The visual style is unquestionably fetching but there are no true standout moments with regards to animation quality, but it is serviceable all throughout the film’s short length. The voice acting is fairly plain, though Andrew Whelbig puts in an intriguingly zany and idiosyncratic turn as Max Winner, an eccentric mayoral candidate for the town of Clearapple in which the film takes place. The humour that features in many of the small vignettes that comprise the film is very much hit-and-miss, and though there’s an odd sort of wonder to be found in things like believing melting pizza toppings to be a sign of alien life, on occasion it tries too hard to be quirky.
Things remain open-ended with much mystery abounding, and so one can only wonder whether or not there will be an eventual continuation. If this takes off, with a bit more time added on, a hypothetical follow-up could potentially be something truly solid. As it is, however, it’s a curiosity. One with a firm central thrust, but a curiosity nonetheless.