Best known for 'Resurrection Man' and the substandard shockers 'Trauma' and 'My Little Eye', 'Snow Cake' reveals a refreshing lightness of touch from director Marc Evans and makes up for an uneven storyline with excellent performances and insights.

Having recently been released from prison, Alex Hughes (Rickman) flies to Canada to meet someone from his past. While travelling by rental car to Ontario he encounters Vivienne (Hampshire), a chatty young hitchhiker on her way to visit her autistic mother Linda (Weaver). Here, alone and in the middle of nowhere, the simple kindness of giving Vivienne a lift will alter Alex's life forever.

From a shocking opening, through many heartwarming and sad moments through to its uplifting ending, 'Snow Cake' is an absorbing character study that avoids becoming too mawkish or sentimental and, more importantly, through Weaver's performance, offers a greater understanding of autism.

The problem with the script is that 'Snow Cake's loses some of its power in the subplot involving Alex and Linda's neighbour (Moss), which could be another film in itself. These scenes are needed - and Moss shows she should be remembered for more than 'The Matrix' - to show the ice thawing around Rickman's character's heart, but the pace that the relationship develops is too fast for the film.

Once you forgive that shortcoming, however, there is much here to savour and, more importantly, plenty to think about afterwards.

Harry Guerin