Woodley plays Kat Connor, a 17 year old who arrives home one evening to discover that her mother, Eve (Eva Green) is nowhere to be seen. Assuming she’s merely out at the shops, Kat’s father Brock (Christopher Meloni) is not quite so relaxed, and he has cause to be anxious – as Eve never returns. While the police open an investigation into her disappearance, Kat is left to scrutinise over these surreal events, needing the support of her distant boyfriend Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) during this difficult time.
White Bird in a Blizzard is effectively a coming-of-age tale, abiding by the unspoken rules of the genre, examining our protagonist’s passivity towards her parents, and the tumultuous relationship that existed between her and her mother. Except there’s a whole added dimension, as what transpires is a film that takes on the form of a murder mystery, as we search for the missing Eve. Araki’s film loses any sense of identity and direction as a result. There are absorbing, interesting themes at play too, but told in such a cliched, uninteresting way, as the melodrama is ramped up accordingly. It’s a shame as Eve is a complex character, suffering from depression, and living vicariously through her daughter, longing for that same sense of youthful vitality and exuberance. It’s also unique that we’re looking at this loveless marriage from the daughter’s perspective – though the execution of the storytelling is no match for the promise in the narrative.
Much of that derives from Kat’s unsentimental, apathetic approach to the situation, as her own emotional detachment extends to the viewer. It’s impossible to care about Eve’s fate, when her own daughter, and our entry point into this world, doesn’t seem to be affected by it all, or care herself. The picture is wildly unsubtle too, leaving so little to the imagination. It’s similar to the recentReece Witherspoon starring drama Wild, in that regard. This should be a profound character study, but the cliched use of flashbacks and the mawkish elements to the piece detract heavily from our own enjoyment.
It just becomes laughable as we progress, slowly taking on the form of a soap opera. This approach can only work if the director thrives in their surroundings, and thrives in the absurdity of it all – but this picture is undone by its own sincerity. Nonetheless, the music is a shining light, really placing the viewer in the era depicted, (1988, to be precise). Even if you don’t feel like you’ve been transported back to the aforementioned year, it’s still just a pleasure to hear all of the songs, anyway.