Ashes in the Snow tells the harrowing story of Lina (Bel Powley), a talented artist with a promising future. This Lithuanian teenager has the rare gift of honestly illustrating what she sees. Her doting father fosters her skill and encourages her to study art. On the day she receives a possible acceptance letter from art school, her family is torn apart.
“…Lina illustrates these unimaginably monstrous trials and the people she encounters along the way.”
Stalin’s henchmen violently invade and ruthlessly deport Baltic families from their homes. Like Armenians and Jews, these innocent Eastern Europeans are persecuted and tortured on the orders of a senseless dictator desperate to gain control by any means necessary. Heartbreaking, grim, and viscerally abhorrent abuses befall these people as they are herded onto trains traveling for weeks on end, wrangled into impoverished encampments, and rigorously labor for rations.
Lina illustrates these unimaginably monstrous trials and the people she encounters along the way. She sees their souls and even reminds them of who they truly are. Despite their desolation, she never loses hope. Her perseverance and unwavering optimism shows through her art and inspires others to have faith in the future.
“…depiction of horrifying tragedies is upsetting but watchable.”
The film is based on Ruta Sepetys’ novel Between Shades of Grey, which is inspired by actual events. However, these characters and Lina’s story are fictional. Ashes in the Snow is a good, yet unsatisfying movie with the potential to have been so much better. The pace is too slow, and the characters’ arcs are predictable. The depiction of horrifying tragedies is upsetting but watchable. There are uplifting elements of romance as Lina falls for a fellow captive, Andrius Aras (Jonah Hauer-King).
Overall, I expected Lina’s artwork to play a greater part in shaping the narrative. A missed opportunity for creative storytelling does this film a disservice. Instead of standing apart from similar stories, we see another despicable and lamentably unsurprising story of oppression and survival.
Ashes in the Snow (2018) Directed by Marius A. Markevicius. Written by Ben York Jones, Ruta Sepetys (novel). Starring Bel Powley, Peter Franzén, Sophie Cookson, Jonah Hauer-King, James Cosmo.
7 out of 10 stars