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  White Bird in a Blizzard Absent Parent
Year: 2014
Director: Gregg Araki
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, Ava Acres, Thomas Jane, Mark Indelicato, Dale Dickey, Sheryl Lee, Michael Patrick McGill, Jill Johnson, Jacob Artist, Brenda Koo
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) in 1988 was an eighteen-year-old in her final year of school when her mother Eve (Eva Green) disappeared. She had been acting strangely for some time, but her daughter simply took this as her usual self for she had gotten used to Eve's erratic behaviour, such as walking into her bedroom after getting back from her classes and finding her mother in full evening dress curled up on her bed with no explanation. But after she vanished, Kat was left with memories and a void in her life where her parent should be that her father Brock (Christopher Meloni) just would not be capable of filling, so what could she possibly do to find a contentment so lacking now?

Director Gregg Araki took the screenwriter's position for his own take on the novel by Laura Kasischke, and given his interest in things homosexual, you might have been expecting a rather gay spin on the missing mother tale. You may come away thinking that you had, but actually for the most part he concentrated on the heterosexual Kat and her adventures, or if not adventures at least her oddly unengaged journey through her days. That was to say, there were instances where star Woodley could emote and even turn on the tears, yet there was a curiously detached tone to the film that made it difficult to be particularly engaged with anyone we saw. Not because of poor acting, there wasn't a weak link in the cast, more because of their hazy circumstances.

By placing the action in two time periods, 1988 and 1991 when events are brought to a conclusion, again there was that feeling there was a distance between the audience and the characters, as if we were reading a book written some time ago and its concerns were difficult to relate to after all this passage of the years. That in spite of such plot themes as the loss of a mother or a troubled marriage or even the way friends can stick together through thick and thin, even after circumstances dictate they are separated for whatever reason for whatever length of time, would seem to be universal up to a point, or at least something most in the audience could sympathise with. Not so, however, as Araki had taken the dream sequence aesthetic and applied the tone to the rest of it.

Yes, there were dream sequences which make asides to the missing woman, and reference the title which is a rather awkward clue to where Eve has gone to. Green is well suited to playing characters who are slightly or indeed completely off their rocker, as if essaying the role of a normal, well-balanced person is anathema to her, so for her apparently perfect housewife she obviously had to put that eccentric spin on it to sustain her interest, so much so that you almost wish Eve had hung around since her presence added interest to the set-up that you noticed when it wasn't there. Seeing as how she spends all of her scenes in flashback, you could regard that as a conscious decision on the part of the director to make us experience the loss too.

However, all that was merely on a dramatic level, as Eve seems like she'd be hard work with Kat - so called, she suspects, because her mother would have preferred a feline pet - observing the gap between her parents as far as affection went. Brock looks to be yearning for a better marriage, but Eve is barely tolerating him and has designs on the boy next door, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) whose romantic meetings with Kat she does her best to interrupt. Meanwhile after the disappearance, Kat takes up with the older detective who was investigating, the bizarrely-named Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane), which was another reason this had more attention, not just because Woodley was flavour of the moment when this was released, but because surprisingly she had more nude scenes than Green, who didn't have any really. You suspect they were there to draw in the heterosexual males in the audience who would then be confronted with the final twist and be forced to reassess themselves, but if you weren't that bothered it was pretty clunky for a resolution. Music by Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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