Sam Rockwell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Glenn Marchand in Snow Angels.
Sam Rockwell is an actor sometimes incorrectly boxed in by some. This is usually in the view that he is only capable of his more eccentric turns, those that earn the moniker of Rockwellian. Although crafting an idiosyncratic style as a performer is usually a notable achievement it certainly could be problematic if the performer uses that as a crutch. That never has been the case for Rockwell, and his performance here is a testament to this. There is barely a hint of his usual style in his performance here as Glenn Marchand a former alcoholic turned born again Christian. Rockwell completely rids himself of any of his usual energetic style to give a completely subdued turn fitting to a man in this life and in his current situation. Rockwell's work rather conveys the history of Glenn from this outset which he wears through this internalized somberness that is remarkable. This is striking in the way Rockwell so subtly portrays this as a constant that is less of what Glenn wishes his current state of mind to be, and is more of an indication of the life he has lead before this point. A life of much heartbreak through his relationship with his wife Annie (Kate Beckinsale) however as the film opens we see man trying to make a better life for himself. In his first scene Rockwell exudes this remarkable frustration, as Glenn prepares for the day that includes seeing his kid and perhaps getting a job, that naturally reflects a man still very much burdened by his problems yet striving to correct them.
Rockwell delivers this curious yet wholly convincing type of optimism in his performance in these early scenes. In that he projects very much this eagerness to be optimistic more than there lies a true optimism that defines the man. Rockwell realizes so well this difficult juxtaposition of emotion as he plays it as Glenn very much trying to keep himself in the right frame of mind. He wears in his eyes that sorrow of a problematic past, but with the uneasy smile of a man trying very hard to not let that define his life. We see his early interactions with Annie where he and Beckinsale effectively strike up this troubling chemistry as Rockwell exudes very old difficulties in connecting with her without immediately falling into frustrations. Rockwell shows Glenn very much a man trying to force himself to keep from this though, and is incredible the way in a given scene he shows how Glenn begins with an immediate, slightly artificial, charge of joy that slowly is lost when he and Annie start to fight. An important facet also in this sense is Glenn as a born again Christian, which is an element that Rockwell brilliantly portrays in his performance. When Glenn speaks about his religion there is this intensity that Rockwell delivers in every line. An intensity not of zealot or anything like that, there is instead an intensity of a certain desperation. This desperation that underlines his words that Rockwell effectively shows doesn't allude to doubts in his faith, but rather this painful need to use it as this life preserver for his existence.
The one bit of light in his life is through Glenn and Annie's daughter Tara, though she is more than a bit of a handful. Rockwell though is great in his scenes between Glenn and Tara as he carefully shows that in these most direct interactions with his daughter his troubles seem most at ease. Rockwell never portrays a man completely comfortable with himself, but in these moments presents the man finally at any comfort in his life. He exudes an overabundance of warmth that he uses so well to portray that Glenn has an unquestioned love for his daughter. We briefly see Glenn starting to have any consistency in his life and Rockwell is terrific in realizing Glenn's troubles slowly easing away from his mind, though he carefully shows that they are never completely gone. He has a great moment in perhaps Glenn furthest from his personal traumas when he asks Annie out for a date. Rockwell is outstanding in this scene in that he brings a genuine charm. Not so much the usual charm that Rockwell has, which would be ill-fitting for Glenn, he finds instead something a bit low key yet still notable in reflecting perhaps Glenn's past self that originally won Annie over a long time ago. Rockwell still presents this with a bit of compromised delivery through every little attempted romantic overture having such a real hesitation in every word of a man trying to tip toe around speaking directly with his wife as his wife.
Things quickly fall apart from that better state though when it becomes public knowledge that Annie is having an affair with a married man. This would be an easy enough time to slip up however Rockwell is great as he realizes Glenn essentially falling into the other man he was within the rot of their old marriage. Rockwell portrays Glenn's drunken state as particularly wretched by playing it in a especially naturalistic way. In that he shows Glenn as man who in the past has spent much of his time as drowning in liquor and his jealousy. Rockwell makes him a proper mess of just broken emotions as every word he says towards Annie is angry slurred nonsense fitting to a man who has fallen into those frustrations that had lied dormant before then. Things sadly get worse before they improve as Annie's neglect leads to the accidental death of their daughter. Rockwell's performance is particularly remarkable as he successfully portrays this leading to a different state than that of just the envious drunk. The initial transition is as Glenn is blamed, before the death is discovered, where Rockwell depicts this greater clarity in his outrage over the accusations. The outrage though Rockwell finds in this rather meek way that sadly still alludes to the state of the man as there is a exasperation of someone who has spent his whole life being told he's screwed up.
After the death is discovered Rockwell has a few scenes all that are exceptionally performed by him in portraying Glenn's reaction to the loss. Now part of this is in the expected in one heartbreaking scene where Glenn confronts Annie's lover who prevents him from seeing her. Rockwell in the scene reveals such a harrowing grief in the man as he portrays a man just falling into his this deep pit of despair. He shows a man not only grieving for the loss of his daughter but also wallowing in the terrible sadness of his life up until this point. When Glenn describes his previous suicide attempt Rockwell evokes this horrible sense of a resignation as though Glenn has simply expected himself to meet such a sorrow again. Rockwell realizes every moment of the pain that writhes within him, and is extremely moving as he delivers such raw emotion in every single moment of Glenn's breakdown. After this scene though Glenn's reaction changes. First in almost an attempt to compromise back to the man attempting to inspire hope in himself which we see when tries to give photos of Tara. Rockwell though now shows that this attempt at comfort is even more precarious than it was before with his grief and anger barely being hidden in his failure of a gesture to basically attempt to negotiate his feelings towards Annie. The final sequence of the film Rockwell is downright amazing in his depiction of Glenn's final decision. Rockwell portrays throughout suddenly a certain solace that is absolutely chilling. He does not deliver this as some sudden vicious psychopath rather presents it as this alarming religious conviction in him. Rockwell speaks with this overwhelming calm most of the time showing really that same comfort in his religion, but now to a most tragic end. There is still the occasionally lapse into the raw sorrow that brought him to this point, however Rockwell reveals Glenn now finally at ease through his final decision. This is a great performance Sam Rockwell. It would be easy enough to demonize Glenn or for this to fall apart into some caricature at any point. Rockwell never does this as he humanizes every moment of the man's descent therefore granting a far more potent tragedy at the center of the film.