First Snow

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
First Snow Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, bleak thriller about fate and fear.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Drug addict, conniving salesman, selfish backstabber: The film is full of cheats and deceivers trying their best to avoid responsibility. That said, Jimmy does try to make amends in the end.


Violence escalates throughout the film: The first jolt comes when Jimmy has his palm read and the fortune teller goes into alarming convulsions. Jimmy later feels threatened by a bullet-riddled shooting-range target that's left in his mailbox. Jimmy believes he's going to die and reads various details as "signs" an argument with Deirdre turns ugly (she leaves the car and walks home in abandoned area); several guns are wielded in different scenes; some awkward fist-fighting and kicking; eventual showdown leaves two men bloody from a bullet shot at their heads; news of a terrible car crash.


Brief, sometimes playful sex scenes between Jimmy and Deirdre (with pretty lighting and romantic close-ups); Deirdre wears a couple of tight tops; reference to "getting laid" kissing in a tub with naked backs visible.


Plenty of "f--k"s (more than 50), plus "s--t," "goddamn," "a--hole," and "hell," as well as other colorful phrases ("Looks like people been pissing on your floors," "Got my nuts in a vise").


Diet Coke, Coke, Sony, Corona beer, Timberwolves (NBA team), Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin posters, Wurlitzer jukeboxes.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jimmy smokes cigarettes incessantly for first third of film, then gives it up; heavy drinking (beer, liquor, wine) at bars and in homes; Vince has visible drug paraphernalia (needles, pouches, spoons); a character offers marijuana as a "peace offering" prescription pills in a motel room; reference to "booze and those goddamn drugs."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this psychological thriller -- which dwells on the possibilities of fate and free will in regards to a predicted death -- is meant for mature viewers. The movie's downer theme is presented in darkly shadowed, bleak compositions, with tension and threats of violence running high throughout the film. Men carry and use guns, and there's some fighting; the last sequence turns very bloody. A couple of brief sex scenes are romantic and hopeful. There's lots of drinking and cigarette smoking, and a central character is a heroin addict. The language is appropriately seedy, with frequent use of "f--k" and more.

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What's the story?

Told by a roadside psychic (J.K. Simmons) that he's destined to die soon (at the "first snow"), ambitious New Mexico-based flooring salesman Jimmy Starks (Guy Pearce) goes through a series of reactions: disbelief, anxiety, anger, and, at last, surrender. He knows his friend Vincent (Shea Whigham) is now paroled, but still believes that his friend went to jail because he screwed up during a police interrogation following a botched crime. As much as he tries to control what's happening -- threatening friends, breaking into Vincent's trailer, even conferring with a cop -- Jimmy is lost. At last, worried that Vincent will be the instrument of his death, Jimmy goes to see Vincent's grandmother Maggie (Jackie Burroughs). Jimmy suggests -- in his ferrety, deceptive way -- that he's afraid Vincent is "thinking about doing something stupid," but Maggie is distracted by what's important to her: a relationship with another person. "I wish I'd been awake when [Vincent] left the message that said he loved me," she sighs. It's a desire so delicate and sad that Jimmy can't fathom it.

Is it any good?

While the plot is unsurprising, Pearce's performance opens up its mostly conventional ruminations on fate and free will. As Jimmy succumbs to his fears -- he's a self-absorbed anti-hero, cynical and always angling -- his descent into himself is weirdly gripping. Though Jimmy's plot eventually turns too knotty to believe, his efforts to sort it out are increasingly riveting.

Any movie that finds a place for the remarkable Jackie Burroughs scores a few bonus points out of the gate. As Maggie, an elderly woman living alone -- addled, coughing, and gnarly, she maintains a strange grace, aware of her visitor's selfish intent even as she mourns losing her son to his drug addiction. Her two brief scenes reveal her canny understanding of exactly what went wrong for her son, as well as what's about to go wrong for his childhood friend, Jimmy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the concept of fate. Would you want to know the future if you couldn't change it? Do you think Jimmy could have avoided his fate? Can you think of other movies or TV shows that have dealt with similar topics? Do you consider this film a psychological thriller? Why? What are the conventions of that subgenre?

Movie details

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