Agnes Poe is a grief-stricken widow struggling to keep going after the death of her husband Harold. Harold was particularly known for great marriage advice, and when a bickering couple goes to Agnes looking for her input on their relationship, it sends her into missing Harold even more than she already does.
When she uses the ultimately faulty services of a medium to communicate with Harold, she realizes just how unreachable Harold is after his death. But at her lowest point, one more moment of grace arrives for Agnes, coming in the most unexpected way.
Writer-director Justin Robinson’s short dramedy is a quirky portrait of a woman grappling with intense grief and a crisis of faith in the world and the people around her, parlaying it into a sincere meditation on the enduring power of matrimonial love.
Its writing is full of idiosyncratic observation on how people deal with grief, especially in its rich, poignant and wry dialogue, and its craftsmanship expertly builds a unique world around Agnes. There’s a stylization in their camera movement, sense of color and world-building, focusing on often unique compositions and setting up a feeling of eccentrics lost in an odd, off-kilter world.
The particular world that Agnes occupies is full of people who are well-meaning but are unsure of how to handle difficult emotions around grief. The storytelling nestles its observations about sadness and isolation around Agnes’s navigation of different social situations. Sometimes, these observations on the oddities of people are often humorous, finding ironies in just how awkward and ill-equipped people are around facing death. But there’s also philosophical wisdom in watching Agnes make sense of life when its center has dropped out.
Lead actor Pepi Streiff plays Agnes with particularly deft skill, shading moments with both sharp, gruff humor and deep emotion. Agnes’s feeling is heavy, and though she seems stuck in her sadness, the performance captures the constant oscillation between anger, denial, longing and irritability that make up the grief process. But when Agnes finally begins to accept the permanence of her loss, she is granted her deepest wish, though not quite in the way she would have wanted.
“Snowbirds” has an ending that is mysterious, transcendent and perhaps beyond rational explanation, but it touches upon deeply human needs for connection, even when the people we long to be connected to have left the physical plane. Many have said that grief is often a deep, abiding love that has nowhere to go, and Agnes’s story certainly captures that idea because her intense sadness emerges as the other side of her clear, genuine love for her husband. The cliche is often that our loved ones stay alive in our hearts, but “Snowbirds” explores that idea with a distinctive, even eccentric way, earning its heartfelt and deeply moving conclusion.