If there is ever a movie in 2020 with his heart in the right place it’s “Sno Babies”. This small budget indie aggressively and unflinchingly takes on the ravages of drug addiction and recovery. And the film doesn’t just talk about its subject. Portions of all profits from production to rentals to soundtrack sales goes to the Global Recovery Initiatives Foundation (GRI) to raise awareness and funds in an effort to help those recovering from opioid addiction.
Inspired by actual events, “Sno Babies” tells the story of 16-year-old Kristen (Katie Kelly), a bright and beautiful honor student with aspirations of attending Princeton. She comes from a good Catholic family and loves hanging out with her best friend and classmate Hannah (Paola Andino). The one kink in this otherwise perfect life is that she and Hannah are addicted to heroin. We see the genesis of Kristen’s addiction in a brief yet potent prologue where she’s given a lone OxyContin pill by her self-serving boyfriend. It begins her tragic decline which the film chronicles vividly and with a real sense of urgency.
Skip ahead￼ 15 months. Kristen has moved to the cheaper and more easily available heroin which she and Hannah shoot up on an increasingly regular basis. From there director Bridget Smith concentrates on showing Kristen’s downward spiral, pulling no punches and depicting the depths of her addiction in startling detail. It’s not an easy watch. It’s uncomfortable and heartbreaking. Yet when focused on Kristen the film feels rooted in realism. It forces you watch several grim and uneasy sequences which I’ll let you experience for yourself. They leave their mark in large part due to Katie Kelly. The 20-year-old Texas native gives a performance of intense commitment, one that viscerally sells Kristen’s descent while also capturing our empathy.
Unfortunately the story wanders away from Kristen far too often. There’s a perplexing side story about a guy named Matt (Michael Lombardi) who runs a cash-strapped nature preserve left to him by his father. His wife Anna (Jane Stiles) is desperate to start a family and has her eye on a new house, but selling the preserve would be the only way they could rustle up the funds. Matt’s story does intersect with Kristen’s but not in a necessary or meaningful way. It gets even stranger when he becomes obsessed with killing a wolf which eventually leads to a cringy bit of foreshadowing which the movie could have done without. I found myself spending most of his scenes eager to get back to Kristen.
One of the film’s loudest and most effective warnings shows how easy the symptoms of a loved one’s addiction can be missed especially if you’re not looking. Kristen’s parents (played by Shannan Wilson and Ken Arnold) are career-obsessed workaholics and oblivious to their daughter’s life-threatening problem. They think themselves to be good parents because they only focus on the externals such as providing Kristen with a nice home, giving her an expensive private school education, taking her to church. Yet despite it all they never truly SEE their daughter which only exacerbates her problem. With practically no guidance or stable outlet of support, Kristen is left to her own devices – the absolute worst thing for an addict. It’s a powerful and needed message.
With “Sno Babies” not only will you get a gut-wrenching revelation of addiction’s devastating effects, but you’ll also be helping in immensely important cause. The movie itself hits hard when centered on Kristen. Smith and writer Mike Walsh never dull the edge of Kristen’s story and Katie Kelly’s performance firmly anchors it in reality. If only we didn’t spend so much time on a distracting side story that never feels needed or relevant. It steals a significant amount of running time away from the far more impactful plot line – the one that still makes this a film worth seeing. “Sno Babies” premieres September 29th on VOD. #LetsSaveLives
VERDICT – 3 STARS