Review of Melanie Mayron’s Snapshots

Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Megan Elias

Snapshots (2018). 1 hour 35 minutes. Directed by Melanie Mayron. Featuring Piper Laurie, Brooke Adams, Emily Baldoni, Emily Goss, and Shannon Collis.

A grandmother and granddaughter living parallel lives 50 years apart. A mother who struggles to look beyond her anger and prejudice to support both of them when their secrets come to light. These complicated family dynamics, the truth about the romantic relationship Rose had with her neighbor Louise in the summer of 1960, and Allison’s current secrets all come together in Snapshots, with all of the events based on the true story of  writer and co-producer Jan Corran’s mother.

The film is set in two different time periods: the 1960s and modern day. Three generations of women—grandmother Rose, mother Patty, and daughter Allison—are having a family weekend at the lake house when Allison brings out some of Rose’s old photographs. The discovery of the pictures prompts Rose to consider her past, and through flashbacks, we learn about the affair she had with her neighbor Louise. In 1960, we see the progression of the two women’s relationship; back in the present, it’s revealed that Allison is also harboring secrets from her family. Not only is she pregnant, but she is also having an affair with a woman, just as her grandmother did over 50 years earlier.

The flashbacks not only add to the story, but to the overall quality of the cinematography. The director uses visual cues to alert the audience that a flashback is coming, such as closeups on Rose’s face and changes in the music, that help viewers as they track the storyline. I enjoyed these flashbacks because they gave me a deeper understanding of Rose and created a complex, dynamic protagonist.

In addition to visual cues, there are also auditory cues through the film’s score for flashbacks and other important moments in the story. When I’m watching a film, the score usually fades into the background; with Snapshots, I found myself actually tracking the story through the music. When the three women are connecting as a family, the music is happy and upbeat. Then, when the tone shifts, the music also changes to reflect what the characters are feeling. For instance, when Rose is thinking about the past or right before flashbacks, there is slower, more wistful music. I was thankful for the changes in music because it helped me to follow along with the interconnected stories and emotions of the characters.

Another aspect of the film that struck me is the lighting. In the main storyline that takes place in modern day, the lighting has cooler blue undertones. In contrast, the lighting in the flashbacks is warmer and golden, which gives viewers a sense that they are stepping into a gilded memory. This replication of the emotions of the film through lighting adds another dimension to a film that already has many layers.

All of the technical elements make Snapshots beautiful to watch, but it is the characters and their relationships with one another that bring it to life. Specifically, the realistic portrayal of family relationships caught my attention in the beginning and kept me invested throughout the film. In one scene where Patty is talking to her daughter Allison at the beginning of the film, she says, “I bought her [Rose] a phone for just this reason, and she never uses it.” This line of dialogue connected with me on a personal level because I’ve heard my mother say the exact same thing about my own grandma. The relatable family dynamic that is presented throughout the film helped me to understand the characters’ motivations because I could draw connections to my own life. I haven’t had the same experiences as the characters, but I could still see my own family relationships reflected on the screen, which gave me a better sense of the characters’ thoughts and emotions.

For me, it was the heartfelt moments between the characters that made Snapshots so impactful. There aren’t many films that explore the complexities of multigenerational relationships between women, and even fewer that also feature queer women, but Snapshots was able to do both in a way that connects with a wide audience. Every scene between Rose and her granddaughter Allison tugged at my own emotions and drew me further into the story. Through the dialogue and acting, I could feel how much the two women cared for each other. I really enjoyed watching their relationship on the screen and seeing the support that they gave each other when it was revealed that both women had same-sex relationships. The bond between the two women was clear, and I felt compelled to call and check in on my grandma immediately after the credits rolled. The mark of a good film for me is if it prompts some sort of action in you after you finish watching it, and Snapshots definitely delivered.

Snapshots, its directors, and its cast members have all won numerous awards, and the film is now available worldwide. To learn more, check out the film’s IMDB and Facebook and watch it on Amazon Prime and YouTube. Learn more about Jessica by visiting her profile.