Movie Review: Palm Trees in the Snow

What happens when culture and distance separate two lovers? Can they keep the flame of love going? There might be unpleasant items tumbling out of the closet when you dig deep to find out about your parents. Though the above themes might not sound coherent, the movie "Palm Trees in the Snow" brings them to together seamlessly. The Spanish film titled "Palmeras en la nieve" in the native language is directed by Fernando González Molina and is based on an eponymous novel written by Luz Gabás.

The story spans 50 years and starts when the colonialism is coming to an end in the world. In the same time, Spain is rapidly losing control on the exotic island of Fernando Pó, the present day Bioko. In 2003, Clarence finds a letter after her dad's death, and she decides to find the people mentioned in the letter. Clarence also finds a diary of her uncle Killian, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. From the diary, she comes to know her grandfather, her father and her uncle had worked in the coffee plantations of Fernando Pó. After attaining adulthood, her uncle moves to the island.

The story explores several themes, but the main point is the forbidden love. The main characters belong to two different cultures and races. The period of the story is turbulent. During those days, these two races had distinct roles - the ruler and the ruled. We could also term the relationship as the oppressor and the suppressed. Is a union of trust and understanding possible between the two? As the end of colonialism is nearing, will such a union be accepted?

There are multiple challenges for the director. It is easier to construct a bygone era in the pages of a book. However, it is tough to translate the same into the screen. If the above challenge is not enough, the director also has to say a story without turning both sides into a caricature. Fortunately for us, the director succeeds. Not only he strikes a balance but also shows us the good and bad side of colonialism. As the story happens in two timelines, the distrust of the cultures to each other is well portrayed. When there is a tug of war between two culture, there are three types involved. The people from the two cultures represents the first two categories. The people, who straddle between the two cultures trying unsuccessfully to act as a bridge, is the third type. This movie successfully captures the ethos of the third class.

There is always drama when two different cultures interact. The movie takes a serious look at it. At 163 minutes of running time, it is a tad longer than the standard feature films. However, it is an appealing one with timelines crisscrossing the narratives and keeping us on the edge. If you want a sensitive drama, then this is for you. At the same time, watch out for the nudity.

Language: Spanish

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ****