People constantly talk about how young actors like Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have the knack for choosing some great films to be a part of and really showing off the immense range and talent they contain, (I’m one of them). However, few people talk about the stalwart adults who have been doing their job for years yet without credit. Unless you’re a huge star doing some good stuff along with mindless drivel in order to keep your name in the minds of your viewers, you are thrown to the side or mislabeled as a character actor. Only the young guys get hyped for the quality of work they do because they aren’t quite established yet. Well, let me be the one to say that the most underrated leading man working today is Guy Pearce. The man may not work as often as most, but he seems to choose only the best to take the time for—I can safely say this because I have not and probably will not see The Time Machine. From L.A. Confidential, to Memento, to The Count of Monte Cristo, to The Proposition, Pearce is a force to reckon with. With Mark Fergus’ debut First Snow, you couldn’t wish for a better performance from him or a different actor to have played this role.
Our introduction is a short monologue by Pearce, from the road, with blood dripping down his face. From here we go back in time to the start of everything that is to happen, a fateful day where driving into a ditch lands him in the middle of nowhere with some time to kill. Our protagonist is a salesman with a gift for talking fast and planting the seed of interest in those he tries to sell. Jimmy has an idea that will get him on his own and secure his future for himself and possibly his girlfriend, whom he still has yet to commit to. Pearce is pitch-perfect with the cockiness needed to believe this character and even dislike him a bit, knowing that there must definitely be more to him than is shown on the surface. Our catalyst to find out what has happened in his past is a fortuneteller by the roadside, willing to give a reading for ten bucks. The reading goes bad though and ends abruptly with the knowledge that Jimmy doesn’t have very long to live, in fact, he has until the first snow before his end.
Sometimes fate hits you when you least expect it. Had Pearce not seen the psychic, (played wonderfully by J.K. Simmons in a role that I have not seen him tackle before), he may not have been led on the path laid before him. The very knowledge of his demise is the jumpstart to why his life must end. Between the paranoia and jumping to conclusions from the fear of what he learned, he sets into motion a reunion of sorts with the demons he has learned to live with throughout his life. Will he be able to reconcile his soul before the end or will he drive himself to the edge, never wavering and never being able to forgive himself? First Snow is definitely a journey worthy of its time and setup.
While a simple story of redemption and the fragility of life, this movie hits all its marks dead-on. Jimmy’s evolution as a man is believable and where he ends up is because he took his life into his own hands, to let it carry out on his own terms. He is told that no matter what road he chooses, the end will always be the same. It is up to him to take the time to say goodbye or to keep running from the inevitable. Through all his inner turmoil, we are also given a glimpse into the lives of those around him. This is a strong cast of people that help hold together the shattering performance from Pearce. Piper Perabo is fantastic as the bubbly girlfriend with the compassion and the love to stick with her man and accept that he has secrets, but allow him the space to deal with them on his own. Besides Simmons, we also have a couple acquaintances played by two favorites of mine, William Fichtner and Rick Gonzalez. Fichtner does what he does best and shows how effective he can be in a small role, redeeming himself for the paycheck he received on Blades of Glory. Although his role is small, and may seem a bit of a throwaway at first, by the end you learn that his was a very integral part in the decision Pearce finally makes.
At the end of the day, First Snow is an intelligently told, taut thriller. It is wholly character based and story driven, led by its emotional performances rather than confrontational action. Many of the most suspenseful moments take place just watching Pearce talk on the phone, not knowing what will happen next. Even the ending is practically perfect and very un-Hollywood. It is very subtle, and I almost thought Fergus wouldn’t do it, but he does. He ends it how it needed to be ended and without the fanfare and in your face theatrics that lesser films would have used.
First Snow 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
 Piper Perabo as Deirdre and Guy Pearce as Jimmy in First Snow – 2007
 J.K. Simmons in First Snow, a Yari Film Group release. ©2007 Yari Film Group Releasing.