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Gripping, tragic and beautifully shot, DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW is a love story set amid the Soviet dictatorship

Writer and director Shamim Sarif brings her bestselling novel DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW to the big screen with an all-star cast including Rebecca Ferguson, Charles Dance, Sam Reid and Anthony Head.

Set in 1950s Soviet Moscow, DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW tells the story of Katya, a beautiful young spy for America who falls in love with an idealistic Communist politician named Alexander. Torn between love and duty, Katya decides to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect Alexander, a sacrifice he only uncovers forty years later. The film makes its UK premiere at the 2016 Manchester Film Festival this month ahead of its official UK release on 15 April.

Gripping, tragic and beautifully shot, DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW is a love story set amid the Soviet dictatorship. Time shifts between 1990s America and 1950s Soviet Moscow, as two parallel stories collide and secrets from the past begins to unravel.

Rebecca Ferguson plays Katya, the beautiful and enigmatic spy driven to spy on her country following the loss of her parents. Under the leadership of Misha (played by the excellent Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Katya is pushed to start a relationship with rising communist politician Alexander (Sam Reid). The love story between the two young protagonists and their subsequent fight not to be discovered by the KGB is strong enough to be a story on its own and as such, the ‘modern day’ elements take a bit of time to get off the ground.

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Charles Dance plays the older and wiser Alexander, now in his late 60s and living in America. Haunted by his love for his wife, Alexander cannot erase his memories of the Soviet but is forced to return to the city that caused him so much pain when his headstrong niece Lauren (also played by Rebecca Ferguson) sets out to discover the truth. While the acting in this section is first-class, the 90s plot feels a little weak in comparison to the romance and suspense of the 1950s. Despite a second attempt at a love story between Lauren and journalist Martina (Antje Traue), the film starts to lose some of its momentum mid-way. Sarif has clearly tried to balance the film with equal amounts of time between the story of the past and the story of the present but I found myself wanting to urge the story along to catch back up to events in the 1950s.

That aside, DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW is beautifully shot with Sarif demonstrating her talent both as a director, as well as a writer. The opening sequence in which Katya moves swiftly through the streets of Moscow scared for her life is particularly impressive with Sarif experimenting with different camera angles for dramatic effect. The soaring panoramic shots over the cold dark streets of 1950s Moscow and the secluded cemetery are equally impressive.

Overall, Sarif does an impressive job of brings together the descriptive power of her novel to the big screen even if some elements get lost along the way. If you’re a fan of John le Carré’s A WANTED MAN or TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY, you’re sure to enjoy DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW. A classic story of love, tragedy and cold war espionage that’s well worth a worth.

4 out of 5 stars

DESPITE THE FALLING SNOW makes its UK premiere at the 2016 Manchester Film Festival and is released in UK cinemas on 15 April 2016.