The title town in “Angels Crest” is a small, snowy place in Montana where the locals all know each other, where the diner is run by the woman whose name is on the sign, and where people equipped with firearms can adjourn to a nearby wood, shoot a deer, and be home in time for breakfast. Like many movies set in small, snowy towns like this, “Angels Crest” is a quiet drama about imperfect people coping with loss and regret. Doesn’t anything happy ever happen in wintry hamlets?
Directed by Gaby Dellal (“On a Clear Day”) and adapted from Leslie Schwartz’s novel, the film reminds me a lot of David Gordon Green’s “Snow Angels,” though it’s not quite as evocative or emotionally powerful. “Angels Crest” centers around a dumb mistake that leads to the death of a 3-year-old boy. His father, Ethan (Thomas Dekker), who is too young to have produced a child on purpose but was a dedicated dad nonetheless, is devastated. The boy’s mother, Cindy (Lynn Collins), a full-time alcoholic, is enraged by her ex-partner’s carelessness.
The rest of the town is split. Some blame Ethan; some figure he blames himself enough already. Some acknowledge that all parents make mistakes, and thank God that they never made one with consequences this dire. Cindy was in bed with Ethan’s best friend Rusty (Joseph Morgan) when the crisis arose — could either of them have helped prevent the tragedy if they’d been available? Jane (Elizabeth McGovern), a waitress at the diner and a friend of Ethan’s, has cause to reflect on her own failings as a parent, while her partner, Roxanne (Kate Walsh), observes. Likewise, Cindy’s God-fearing mother wonders where she went wrong with Cindy.
Details like that emerge here and there, giving the story a little dimension, but not enough. A district attorney (Jeremy Piven) prosecuting Ethan for negligence once lost a child of his own — yet that never factors in to anything. You get the feeling those smaller nuances were more fleshed out in the novel and have been reduced in the adaptation process. (The screenplay is Catherine Treischmann.) As a result, while larger themes are hinted at — accepting blame, dealing with grief, atoning for the past — the only avenue that’s explored with any depth is Ethan and Cindy’s.
Thomas Dekker is sympathetic as the grief-stricken Ethan, though perhaps not quite up to the task of carrying a film like this on his own. The movie’s real strength is Gaby Dellal’s careful, subtle direction. She avoids the pitfalls of melodrama and histrionics that often plague movies about loss, keeping her actors’ emotions grounded in recognizable truth. She has made a solid, respectable drama worthy of wider attention.
B (1 hr., 33 min.; )