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Review - White Bird in a Blizzard

By midlandsmovies, Mar 2 2015 07:51PM

White Bird in a Blizzard (2015) Dir. Gregg Araki

“I was 17 years old when my mother disappeared” says Shailene Woodley’s Kat Connor which introduces writer/director Gregg Araki’s adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel – a French/American production of a dysfunctional family broken up by a mysterious disappearance.

Set in a well designed 80s of big hair, big phones and bigger boom boxes, the film starts with the disappearance of unhappy mother Eve Connor (a suitably eclectic Eva Green) and flashbacks to the past with daughter Kat fleshing out the story with a voiceover explaining the past. The film gets going slowly with moody introspection, silence and a symbolic dream sequence but soon kicks up a gear as we see the nostalgic past of Kat growing up in a perfect primary colour-filled retro household direct from the suburbs of Edward Scissorhands.

The film’s flashbacks punctuate the modern day narrative strands which show Kat facing the foibles of teen angst set to gothy/new romantic music of the 80s. The film has a great sense of time with a dash of Donnie Darko’s soundtrack and some perverse black humour. Kat grows before our eyes as she explains her drunken mother’s loveless marriage to her unassuming Volvo-driving father to a psychotherapist played by Angela Bassett. And her crimped hair makes way for a young adult femme fatale as she has designs on Thomas Jane’s cop who they originally reported the disappearance to.

The film may seem like Gone Girl-lite but its mysterious take on small-town life has echoes of 1999’s American Beauty with its voiceovers, repressed fathers and dinner table silences. The comparisons continue with a sexless marriage and blossoming sexualised teenagers. An Edward Cullen-haired stoner boyfriend is pushed aside by Kat for more adult carnal desires and Woodley’s post-Divergent efforts as a “serious” actress take a positive step forward in this film.

There is also great support and performances from Christopher Meloni as the furtive father Brock Connor and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) as her friend Beth. Unfortunately, the end reveal is fluffed big style with a twist or three too many added to some ham-fisted symbolism from the director which undoes some of the solid character work done before. This ultimately dashes some of the good work earned up until that point.

However, the story bounces easily between cold relationships to seduction secrets involving nosey next-door neighbours and night time naughtiness - and whilst it won’t set the world alight, the surprisingly intense 91 minutes of the film may spice up your life like a brief clandestine affair, exciting for a while but pretty forgettable.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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