The holiday movie season is officially underway with the release of Netflix’s rom-com “Let It Snow!” Starring breakout stars like Kiernan Shipka, Shamei Moore, Odeya Rush, and Jacob Batalon, the film follows a number of teens as their lives intertwine over the course of a snowy Christmas day. It’s based on a collection of stories by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson, each of whom contributed a singular plotline to the original anthology.
“Let It Snow” is a feel-good movie that’s meant to be taken at face value for what it is: fun stories about normal teens who have one extraordinary day. But while the movie feels like Netflix’s attempt at a fresher and more modern “Love Actually,” it can’t be overlooked that the core story — at least in part — comes from the brain of Green; the typical teen-angst-meets-miraculous-love trope is very much alive in this holiday romp. “Let It Snow,” however, manages to cut through the stereotypical rom-com cliches (though there are plenty of them) to truly emphasize the messages behind its light-hearted love stories.
One such story takes place between high schoolers Dorrie (Liv Hewson), a waitress at the local Waffle Town, and Kerry (Anna Akana), a dancer. Their storyline is introduced at the beginning of the film, when the audience finds out that Dorrie has a crush on Kerry, but that she has been drafting and deleting a text to her for weeks now (been there, dude).
The real gay tension begins when Kerry shows up at Waffle Town with her assumedly straight dance troupe and plunges Dorrie into a gay panic over how to act and what to say. We get a glimpse of the women’s past — and a peek at Dorrie’s romanticism — when fellow employee Keon (Jacob Batalon) asks her if they’ve hooked up. “Have you ever been with someone, and you stay up until 4 a.m. just talking about everything?” Dorrie replies, making it clear that the girls deeply connected on an emotional level. “Like how you’re both super scared of getting old, and what it felt like the first time you saw ‘The Goblet of Fire,’ and you’re just like, ‘I can’t believe I get to exist at the same time as you?’”
This beautiful queer love story wasn’t part of the original “Let It Snow” anthology, though. It was written into the Netflix adaptation to make it realer and inclusive.
“Having a heteronormative story all around would be abnormal. It would be weird,” Myracle told Buzzfeed News. “The version in the movie is much more satisfying.”
And satisfying it is for a number of reasons. For one, Dorrie and Kerry are both played by actual queer actors — Akana is a bisexual woman and Kerry identifies as gay and non-binary. It’s refreshing to see LGBTQ+ characters played by actors from the community simply for the realistic representation, but it also gives a truly relatable feeling to the love story. Both actors know what it means to pine after a woman (a basic bedrock of lesbianism), and they manage to weave in intimate moments that all queer women can understand, like stealing weighted glances in a room full of unaware friends and kissing in secret in the bathroom. Just knowing that the actors are starting from a fully understood and developed point makes this story that much more relatable and powerful.
The second reason that I watched this cheesy rom-com more than once (four times, actually!) is that the queer characters are presented without any lead-up. We as an audience are not subjected to a tragic backstory or dense dialogue about the ups and downs of being a gay person. Instead, Dorrie’s first scene opens with a casual line from best friend Addie (Odeya Rush). “You’re being so weird,” she starts. “I don’t get it. Why haven’t you texted her?” Just like that, we’re thrown head-first into a world where Dorrie is queer — period. Sure, she has a past, a present, and a future, but she’s free to have a queer love openly. There is no censoring or holding the script back; Dorrie’s crush is discussed just like other straight relationships in the film.
Kerry’s character, though, is crushed by the weight of the opposite problem: She’s not out. Whether this was an intentional choice in the script or just the reuse of a typical lesbian trope, we’re faced with the obvious contrast between one proudly queer woman and one who is still figuring things out. It feels like a playful obstacle in some moments, like when Kerry’s dance team cheers as she and Dorrie finally kiss, but “Let It Snow” still manages to find a way to drive the overall message home. The moment of truth comes during a truthful monologue by Kerry after hours of back-and-forth confusion between the two in the diner. There’s a seriousness in Kerry’s voice that mimics the way Dorrie spoke to her in the bathroom before their secret kiss. It’s a moment any queer woman understands; it’s the burst of passion after the build-up of quiet tension. It’s simultaneously a confession of love and a confession of terror. “I want to be like you,” Kerry says, her voice shaking. “You’re out, and you’re so sure of yourself, and you’re open, and you’re, like, intimidatingly cool.”
This was also the moment, fellow queers, that I lost it. It takes a lot of guts to confess to someone that you admire them, but it takes even more to admit that you’re scared and vulnerable — especially about your sexuality. And when you find someone that you feel like you can be completely open with, it can be hard to flip the script and be honest about not being honest. Navigating queerness is not an easy process, and everyone does it at their own pace. When Kerry opens up to Dorrie about not being out, it’s a soft moment about being ready on your own time, not a harsh reaction. Some people may look at this as a moment of coddling, but I look at it as a moment of care. When you want someone to be safe and protected, you don’t lash out — you listen. And this touch of rom-com romanticism is yet another reason why I loved this film. Queerness doesn’t always have to be so heavy, and “Let It Snow” proves that you can tell a touching story in a light-hearted way without erasing the reality behind it.
“Let It Snow” is a cutesy rom-com that will leave you with a huge smile on your face. It’s exactly what it claims to be: a fun, feel-good holiday movie without too much sustenance. But you didn’t want that anyway — you just came for the queer love story. Luckily, you won’t leave feeling disappointed. Rather, you’ll leave ready to find your queer love and snuggle up on the couch with them during a snowstorm. Ah, gay winter love!