White Bird in a Blizzard
dir-scr Gregg Araki
prd Gregg Araki, Pascal Caucheteux, Pavlina Hatoupis, Sebastien Lemercier, Alix Madigan
with Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Indelicato, Thomas Jane, Angela Bassett, Dale Dickey, Sheryl Lee, Jacob Artist, Ava Acres
release US 24.Oct.14, UK 6.Mar.15
14/US 1h31
White Bird in a Blizzard
Young love: Fernandez and Woodley

green meloni sidibe
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
White Bird in a Blizzard For a movie by Gregg Araki, this film feels oddly straightforward, even if it explores a teen's inner life with unusual honesty. But while this hints that the story is simplistic and obvious as it deals with the usual angsty emotions, there are potent kicks along the way. And a striking twist in the tale.

In autumn 1988, Kat (Woodley) is 17 when her mother (Green) vanishes, leaving her to face her burgeoning womanhood alone. Her dad (Meloni) has no idea how to help. Her friends (Sidibe and Indelicato) offer support, but Kat is also feeling a growing distance from her boyfriend Phil (Fernandez), whose blind mother (Dickey) is seriously demanding. Does Phil's silence have something to do with her mother's disappearance? A few years later, Kat returns home from her studies in Berkeley to visit her dad, and the old mystery comes back to haunt her.

Araki beautifully captures the awkward rhythms of adolescence using waves of nostalgia and dreamy snowscapes in which Kat searches for her mom. In flashbacks, she grapples with mother-daughter issues including expectations, miscommunication and even rivalry. This allows the film to explore the parents' relationship from a child's perspective, as mother shifts from a movie star to a housewife. Kat's inner turmoil also includes hints that her mother was trying to seduce Phil, so it's no wonder that she left. But the truth isn't quite this easy.

Woodley is terrific in the complex central role, while Green gives the entire film a kick of heightened energy. Both women are struggling to be who they are in this dull suburban environment, and each contains a subtle collection of positive and negative traits that frequently catch us off guard. Among the strong supporting cast, Jane has the most surprising role as the sexy tough-guy detective on the case, offering some more unexpected transgression.

Essentially, this is a story about discovering the truth behind the veneer of respectability. Kat feels like an actor in her own life story, narrating her various experiences in retrospect. This makes the film almost feel like it's playing on fast-forward, sipping through a myriad of story strands while dropping clues about the central mystery. Although everything seems fairly predictable, it definitely isn't. Araki cleverly finds emotionally cathartic moments at every turn, including a couple of dark revelations that take the breath away.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 27.Jan.15

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