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WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (review)

white_bird_in_a_blizzardWHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD
Written by Gregg Araki and Laura Kasischke 
Directed by Gregg Araki

Starring Shailene Woodley, Eva Green and Christopher Meloni

Kat’s mother has disappeared. Without warning, without notice and for seemingly no apparent reason whatsoever, her mother just left home one day, leaving Kat (Shailene Woodley) and her father (Christopher Meloni) bewildered and alone. Eve Conner (Eva Green) is a housewife and mother in that very 50’s kind of way. She cooks and cleans for her unappreciative family, and behind the perfect exterior of her home, she is hiding some dark secrets. She begins to lash out at her daughter and starts acting rather oddly until Kat comes home one day to find her mother sleeping in her bed, seemingly unaware that this might seem a bit bizarre to a teenage girl. She becomes an almost “Mommie Dearest” figure with her exaggerated demands and jealousy whenever Kat’s boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) is over at the house visiting. When Eve strangely disappears, Kat and her father just go on with their lives. Kat is ambivalent about her mothers disappearance, even though she talks about it briefly with her boyfriend and her friends. But everything just appears to go back to normal. Kat is a teenager with problems other than worrying where her mother might be, and this is the most intriguing part of WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD – Kat’s own denial.

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While Kat’s dreams about her mother may hold some sort of key to her whereabouts, and her father’s constant avoiding of the issue, WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD is a mystery that we the audience may solve before the main character does, but that itself is part of the strength (or weakness) of that character. Kat denies what might be in front of her the entire time; even when her friends bring up the one possible realistic answer to her mothers disappearance, she ignores it, just citing that she must have had her own reasons for leaving. Never once does she suspect that foul play would even be an option.

Woodley portrays a teenage girl in an incredibly grown up role – bearing her breasts may come as a surprise to fans of her work in DIVERGENT or THE FAULT IN OUR STARS – and she continues to show us that she is capable of great maturity even when playing so young. Her stoicism is as haunting as the dreams she is having; she is often cold and staunch which probably is the reason for her behaviour and attitude towards her mother. Perhaps she knows that deep down she is more like her than she cares to admit. Meloni’s carefully convincing patriarch is at the same time worried and distraught but still collected; he is mostly out of the picture dealing with his own grief, or perhaps relief that his often verbally abusive and demanding wife is now gone.

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Director Gregg Araki is absolutely no stranger adolescent fare; in fact, he has made a career out of making films that revolve around the lives of teenagers in intense and peculiar situations. While his latest film doesn’t put his characters on a deadly road trip like in THE DOOM GENERATION, or fending off an alien invader like in NOWHERE, or even dealing with issues like drug abuse, prostitution and AIDS, as dealt with in THE LIVING END or MYSTERIOUS SKIN, he does still examine grief, guilt and denial in the most intriguing way.  At once a coming of age story and a mysterious thriller, Araki doesn’t abandon his trademarks, for instance, his use of shoegaze rock and new wave bands (Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie, who score this film also scored Araki’s MYSTERIOUS SKIN) like Siouxsie & The Banshees and New Order. The film also features an intense, saturated colour palate that works well to juxtapose the airy and white dream sequences. This isn’t new territory for Araki; it is as sombre and effective as many of his movies are. Unfortunately this may also deter people from appreciating its subtle and bleak beauty. But for those who do appreciate his work (or even those who are new to the director), this is a devastatingly powerful film about denial on many levels, and the journey of coming to terms with things you’ve buried in your past. WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD shows us that as much as we try to hide from tragedy, we will eventually come face to face with what we have chosen to ignore and by then it may already be too late for us to overcome it.

4 sheep

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4.5 (90%) 2 votes

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