White Bird in a Blizzard
Directed by Gregg Araki
Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, disappears. Having lived for so long in an emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother's absence and certainly doesn't blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve's disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother's departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it...
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★★★★ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
+1 to the list of films that I love that have generally poor Letterboxd ratings, but oh well. This is the fourth film that I've seen from Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin, The Doom Generation, Smiley Face and White Bird in a Blizzard), and while none of them have been even the slightest bit disappointing, I think that this one is probably my favorite after Mysterious Skin, which I consider to be his masterpiece. Mysterious Skin was the first example of him bringing out the best, most daring performance from a young actor, but WBIAB just goes to show that he was capable of doing it again. While there isn't anything particularly standout about the writing, cinematography, editing, score, etc. aside from the fact that the dialogue in the film all feels very real (albeit a bit literary, especially the voice over), it's Shailene Woodley's performance that truly makes this film, as I think it's her strongest, most courageous performance yet. And I don't think that I'll ever forget the look in Eva Green's eyes here either. Better than the majority of the films I saw at NYFF this weekend. An under appreciated gem.
★★★★½ review by Sara Williams on Letterboxd
''I want my fucking life back!''
Creating a film isn't easy. It seems fairly easy to get your hands on a camera and start shooting but you don't realize the struggle directors go through to get something right unless you try it out yourself. That's why when I was in the 9th grade and one of my Art projects was to create a mini film about something I appreciated, I went into a forrest and started recording all the green surrounding me. But somehow that wasn't enough. It wasn't even enough to be considered beautiful. What was I missing? Being a 9th grader and already in love with film, I realized it would only work if I added extras to it. But why am I talking about this? Because I believe Gregg Araki is an extremely underrated director who pretty damn knows what makes a good film, and how to get there. Except a couple avoidable defects, White Bird had me hooked up so hard I felt as a ghost wandering around Kat's character, hoping I could give her a hug from time to time.
It took me a long time to digest and start writing the following review. I am still overwhelmed and unsure what my final opinion on the film is. Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd's songs are playing in the background while I get my words down. Nothing sounds as relaxing as their tunes and if you don't believe me, just lay in bed in darkness with your eyelids closed and put on Mysterious Skin's soundtrack. You will find a new galaxy within yourself.
As I mentioned earlier, the film left me overwhelmed. It's not specifically emotionally draining but after analyzing some aspects deeper, my heart broke. I don't trust my opinion - it's biased - because this is Araki and Araki is the director of my all time favorite Mysterious Skin. Watching this was a big deal. Gregg Araki is an indie film maker mostly known for his raw directing and the presence of homosexual elements in all his films. It always bothered me that some films overlooked the fact homosexuality exists. It makes sense to portrait queer characters in all films because that's what real life is like. Literally. When I first started taking interest in Araki and watching all his previous works, I didn't specifically like any. It was shocking to find out that Kaboom and Smiley Face were directed after the bomb that Mysterious Skin was. Those two weren't nowhere near good in my opinion, and were definitely miles away from Mysterious Skin in terms of greatness. However, it feels as if Araki has turned tables around again, for the good!
White Bird is about a girl named Kat whose mother goes missing at the age of seventeen. The rest of her youth is plagued by wondering where she might be, where she might have gone to, what the probability was of running into her later in life. While dealing with her mother's disappearance, Kat is seeing a shrink who she opens her heart too. Shrink sessions are often used as a continuation to the event's narration Kat speaks about throughout the film. She has to deal with her boyfriend's coldness towards her while she needed his warmth the most, her father who appears clueless about what might have happened with his wife and her affair with an older man.
For the first part, White Bird in A Blizzard was boring and I couldn't see it going anywhere. It felt pretty pointless, and many things weren't making any sense. I was indifferent towards the content film until about one third of it. Then, it started to indirectly ask me all these questions I had no answers to. What I love the most about these films is how they make me think about dozens of things. There are ridiculous lines in the dialogue but for the most part it's realistic to the core and that's why most people might find it boring - because reality is boring. Nothing we can do about that.
It feels important to point out that Eva Green is a goddess who came down to earth. The film goes deep into the parents' relationship and the lack of affection from either sides. Such behavior turns Eve into a character so cynical and full of herself. Someone whose happiness was sucked out and all she had left with was disgust and anger from missing her past. Eva portraits her perfectly. She isn't very present, but she is the key to the whole story. Shailene Woodley is the star and this is by far her best performance ever given. What a surprise! This is no Hazel Grace, no Tris, no Aimee. The Woodley we have here is a mature actress who has certainly own me over after her excellent performance as Kat. Christopher Meloni is alright and Kat's childhood friends are the stereotypical black friend and queer hottie.
Sex is less explicit in comparison to previous Araki's films, but there's a well enough built up connotation of it. During some daughter-mother moments, we were forced to see Eve's lack of understanding of childhood. Of course, growing up kids find out their sexualities and slowly start learning how their bodies work. Not having someone - not to guide you - but to help you with the process can be confusing. And Eve was a mother that despite always present, never gave her daughter the attention she deserved. White Bird not only explores sex without showing it, but also seeks to show off teenager's embarrassment with their bodies and lack of confidence while growing up. But unlike the movie, use a condom. I'm serious.
In many coming of age stories, the family factor is not completely omitted but not much attention is paid to it. Much revolves around romance and high school life. In White Bird it's evident that family was the major point. Stepping inside someone else's doors and watching them interact with their family can show us a total different side of someone we believe to know very well.
And it talks about love. How you shouldn't marry someone just because they're available, have a bit of money, and will always be there no matter what. How a deeper connection would be necessary for a long term relationship to last. The film made me think about how divorce isn't as bad as most people make it out to be. My own parents are divorced and I couldn't give less of a damn because at least there's no bad aura hanging around the house because of them not getting along nor loving each other as they were supposed to.
One thing I surely take out of this is how you don't stop hurting just because you grow up. It doesn't matter if you're beautiful or hot or whatever, you're still going to be in pain. It hurts to observe Kat. There's a scene ~no spoilers~ when Kat is driving after a discussion and she has flashbacks about a scene from her past and suddenly she was full of wrong assumptions of past situations. If you look at her face and listen to the music, it screams for help. The moment when it all hits you and you break down, not in tears, but your insides dry and, a knot in your stomach and something in your gut sucking all your air out so you can't breathe. Everyone has been through that.
Sound is key to the flow of the film. I am a big fan of Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd's music and Araki's picks never fail to disappoint. Their songs are soaked in melancholy. They're even painful sometimes, I kid you not. The music helps create some deepness the plot lacks and creates layers of enjoyment for the ears. It's harmonic.
As a whole, it describes what it's like to see the one you love going away. To have even your dreams plagued by your daytime crisis. How you love your parents so so much but you hate them at some point and probably would have stabbed them if you had a knife at hand. Communication! How different the world would be if people talked and tried to understand everyone else's feelings. Even if they're embarrassed to admit they're lonely and feel like they're fading into old age.
The ending......that ending.
If anything, I regret that the film was mainly focused on Kat and didn't give a shit about anyone else's feelings. Also, I just noticed only about 300 people have watched this yet. The film certainly isn't being advertised but it should. Because it deserves lots and lots of love, despite all the evident flaws which you can overcome if you decide to do so. I myself don't think would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't given it a try to do whatever it wants to do with me. I lived the film. Just don't call it pretentious because it's not. It's a puddle of melted snow.
★★★★★ review by Derek Diercksmeier on Letterboxd
This is one of the best films of the year.
I love the writing. This screenplay is engaging, funny, and consistently surprising.
The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, with the flashback sequences being especially gorgeous.
Shailene Woodley is love. Shailene Woodley is life. Shailene Woodley is perfection.
Christopher Meloni is incapable of delivering a bad performance.
Eva Green is a goddess. Her performance is nothing less than incredible.
The final scene left me in tears.
I love this film.
★★★★ review by Daniel Jr. on Letterboxd
Araki's films continue to surprise me with their otherworldly beauty and uncommon yet comforting tone while telling the most startling of stories. Woodley hasn't made much of an impression on me as an actress before this, but impressed in what I consider the performance of her career. Eva Green is a goddess and blew me away as usual, the rest of the cast were nothing short of excellent as well. There are certainly some minor flaws (mainly with some dialogue), but I was captivated the entire runtime. One of the most underrated films of 2014 by far, from one of the most underrated filmmakers of all time.
★★★★★ review by Derek Diercksmeier on Letterboxd
I love this film so much.
It has such a special tone, which is both instantly captivating and deeply affecting.
Eva Green is magical in this film, as she is in everything she's ever done.
This is the year of Shailene Woodley, with starring roles in 'The Fault In Our Stars' and 'Divergent' and this little film that will likely never receive the appreciation it truly deserves.
Christopher Meloni is incapable of delivering a bad performance and he's delightful here.
The music in this film will stay with me forever.
Each scene is an uncommon pleasure, blending multiple types of storytelling and creating something beautifully fresh.
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