White Bird in a BlizzardCultureCinemaMovie reviews
The appeal of Gregg Araki’s work – be it the pessimistic queer Teenage Apocalypse trilogy, the unflinchingly bleak Mysterious Skin or the alternative stoner comedy Smiley Face – is that he’s unafraid in talking frankly and openly about sexuality. It’s a topic he wishes to explore in all of his films, conveyed in a multitude of genres, styles and formats to keep it fresh. This frankness will serve as its basis for the suburban thriller White Bird in a Blizzard.
Kat (Shailene Woodley) was 17 when her mother Eve (Eva Green) disappeared without a word. In a series of flashbacks, Kat tries to make sense of this sudden disappearance, her understanding of her parents’ marriage and her own relationship with her mother. At the same time her relationship with the handsome but dim-witted boy-next-door Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) has gone from sexually active to abstinent.
Araki is an intelligent filmmaker who understands how to use genres to convey a certain type of story. The story at play here is not uncovering the mysterious disappearance of Eve for it is, for the most-part, wholly predictable. The red flags may as well be literal throughout the narrative discourse as they veer towards campy melodramatic revelations rather than Fincher-esque twists. Instead the film opts to focus on Kat’s own coping mechanisms through this tumultuous period. The flashbacks are not just for character backstory but highlight how subjective memory can be. They are stylised to part-exaggeration through Kat’s own admission, notably in the sequences between Brock (Christopher Meloni) at work with his female colleagues, and him at home with his wife.
The quasi-Electra complex between Kat and Eve is noticeable yet subtle, and is made possible by Woodley and Green’s solid performances. Whenever they are onscreen together the tension mounts and the complexity of their relationship remains just beneath the surface, teasing the audience with information through their nuances and idiosyncrasies.
White Bird in a Blizzard is not without flaws – most notable are Kat’s stock caricatures for friends and her dream sequences, which reveal nothing and halt the narrative. They both offer very little in both progression and understanding of Kat’s inner turmoil, and as a consequent feel like filler. Regardless of these faults, this is a solid film that deals with how one copes with the sudden and unexplained loss of a parent.
White Bird in a Blizzard is released nationwide on 6th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for White Bird in a Blizzard here: