Picks and Pans Review: Simla's Sense of Snow

updated 03/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/10/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

Julia Ormond, Gabriel Byrne

In this mystery, based on Peter Høeg's 1992 international bestseller, Ormond plays a most disagreeable young woman trying to solve a murder in Copenhagen. Her father, an American doctor, removed Smilla from her native Greenland—which was colonized by Denmark in the 1700s—after the death of her mother, an Inuit Indian. Given her cold-climate childhood, Smilla is an expert on snow and ice, but she's so angrily uncomfortable in Danish society, no one will employ her. So instead, she sits home alone and studies an ice chunk shaped like a tuna sushi.

After a boy in Smilla's building falls to his death from the snow-topped roof, she spots foul play in his footprints. A neighbor (Byrne) offers to help. Bristly Smilla can't decide whether to trust him. The movie is lovely to watch, with lots of blue-lit snow and deep Nordic gloom, and Ormond is frostily pretty. But she's as ploddingly earnest as Nancy Drew. (R)

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