Dave is the real face of multicultural Britain; his best friend Tariq is a rapper and his uncle Jimmy is a racist gangster selling overpriced coffee to young professionals by day and cocaine to them by night. Dave’s a wiry force of nature, forever moving like an East End squalus against the tide of gentrification. No white flight for Dave’s family in the 70s and 80s they stood their ground in their council houses and gradually watched their estates become cheap crash pads for city boys and then extortionate rentals for middle class media hipsters.
As working class heroes go, Dave is a tough sell. His lithe physique is built for aggro, sinewy and hard, immaculate and pressed into retro-casual chic, tight jeans and button downs, tattoos and a razor sharp parting. He loathes his betters, thinks they are “scared of living,” immersed in the twilight glow of corporate driven individuality via Mac Books. To Dave gentrification is “no better than ethic cleansing,” but the Applefication of the middle-class is no less terrifying and their compunction to share the absurd via social media is insulting. When Dave happens on a wannabe female artist taking a photo of a solitary shoe in front of a wall he find it offensive: “There’s people round here who can’t afford chicken and chips.”
Dave certainly has a point that the bedroom tax on austerity Britain is slowly driving out the white working class and the Asian and black communities from certain areas of the East End thanks to David Cameron and his fellow Bullingdon Club members. However that point is brutally undermined when Dave glasses a hipster at a jazz club who has the audacity to tell him he has nothing to moan about because he can sell his council flat for a fortune. Dave further loses the argument when he sets about the rest of the club with a machete in a crack-fuelled rage.
When Dave starts to move up in the world fetching and carrying for Jimmy, Tariq is reluctantly swept along into the savage arms of East End villainy. Their friendship might be a mystery to the chattering classes and Jimmy and his ilk but it is born out of living on the front line of an ethnic venn diagram, something the proponents of multiculturalism in Britain have never had to do. Dave’s guilt at involving his peaceful childhood friend drives him into a downward spiral of addiction and violence, a grubby non-linear existence that begins to blur dreams, reality and hallucination into one waking nightmare.
Solace for Dave is found in the unlikely form of Tariq’s local mosque, a quiet reminder of God placed serenely in the background of so many shots. When Dave collapses into the arms of dozens of worshipers after a catastrophic bender, “Snow In Paradise” evokes a spiritual awakening in Dave and the audience alike. The calm, wide spaces of the mosque, bathed in sunlight, washed in tinkling water and whispered prayer offer a genuine alternative to the hellish apartheid created by the Tory elite determined to divide and conquer the working class through racism, Islamophobia and financial envy.
First time director Andrew Hulme was also the editor on Paul McGuigan’s seminal “Gangster No. 1” a timely attack on New Labour and Cool Britannia’s obsession with celebrity. Equally, “Snow In Paradise” is a crucial milestone in the development of the British Gangster genre as allegory and a worthy addition to a cinematic cannon that features “Brighton Rock,” “Get Carter,” “The Long Good Friday,” and the aforementioned, “Gangster No. 1.” What makes “Snow In Paradise” so essential is Frederick Schmidt’s soulful portrayal of Dave as a tortured, messianic lone figure of working class resistance. On the basis of this performance we could be looking at the next Tom Hardy.