White Bird In A Blizzard puts a spin on familiar tropes. It harks back to 80s cinema with its detailed setting, soundtrack and precocious adolescent characters, all heightened by its dreamlike style.
This is a narrative of strong women drawn to weak men. Kat (Shailene Woodley) is a sexually active teenager who resents her parents. Her mother Eve (Eva Green) is a bored housewife, jealous of her daughter’s beauty; her father Brock (Christopher Meloni) is his wife’s doormat, pathetic and doting. Theirs is a dysfunctional family – to the point that when Eva goes missing, nobody seems overly bothered.
What ensues is a family drama wrapped up in a mystery. We witness the breakdown of the family through flashbacks paralleling Kat moving on with her life and discovering her sexuality, the family secrets gradually unfurling. The major issue with the film, though, is that the narrative is dissatisfying, its twists and turns easily predicted and all too familiar. You can see the film's climactic denouement coming a mile off.
That said, the surreal, dreamlike pacing of the film draws the audience into the plot. Kat dreams of her mother, shown through stylised blizzard sequences, whilst a shoegaze soundtrack punctuates the whole film. Director Gregg Araki has created a meticulous vision of 80s small-town America, with authentic costumes and hair, all bathed in a soft, warm glow. In some ways its style bears resemblance to Donnie Darko, but without the mind-bending plot.
Mostly, it’s the performances that impress. Woodley’s Kat is a cool, sexy and convincing protagonist, but it’s Green who truly steals the film, lighting up every frame she features in. Her portrayal of the lonely Eve is devastating: a faded beauty living vicariously through her daughter. She flips from lurking in corners to putting on a grand, alcohol-fuelled show of sex appeal, with a gravelly voice to match. It’s a performance of poised madness – a real shame, then, that she’s so underused.
Watch: White Bird In A Blizzard screens at the London Film Festival, with general release on 16th October in the UK.