White Bird In A Blizzard review

O mother, where art thou?

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Misses the energy and vitality of Gregg Araki’s best work, but there’s more going on here than immediately meets the eye.

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O mother, where art thou?

Talk about a prophetic title. Released in the US a week after Gone Girl, this adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel concerning a woman’s disappearance got swallowed up whole.

Not that Gregg Araki’s vivid tales of angst-ridden youth have ever been designed to set tills ringing, composed as they are of gaudy style, voracious sexuality and deep dysfunction lurking beneath lipstick-lensed surfaces. White Bird In A Blizzard is less openly confrontational than the auteur’s earlier work but remains apart from your average Hollywood thriller, with many of his pet themes in place.

Set in 1988, Araki’s film centres on 17-year-old Kat (Shailene Woodley), a Middle-American suburbanite whose relationship with her unhinged mother (Eva Green) is splintering apart. Then Kat returns home to find her mother gone. But Kat isn’t that bothered, ostensibly at least – she continues to hang with her glib friends, while also seducing the macho cop (Thomas Jane) who’s handling the case.

Focusing more on Kat than her mother’s disappearance, Araki clearly finds the mysteries of a possible murder case far less attractive than those of a teenager’s coming of age.

Tacky furnishings, heightened colours and ’80s synth-pop combine to lend a dream-drenched atmosphere to the proceedings, and any attention that is paid to the investigation feeds back to the portrait of Kat – discombobulated and disaffected, the product of a dysfunctional family.

It’s no surprise that the talented Woodley has what it takes to inhabit a more grown-up role that requires plenty of (shock!) swearing and (horror!) nudity. But White Bird is at its most colourful when Green is on screen as the jealous, competitive mom who’s threatened by her teen daughter’s looks, youth and love life.

More info

Theatrical release6 March 2015
DirectorGregg Araki
Starring"Shailene Woodley","Eva Green","Thomas Jane","Christopher Meloni"
Available platformsMovie
Editor-at-Large, Total Film

Jamie Graham is the Editor-at-Large of Total Film magazine. You'll likely find them around these parts reviewing the biggest films on the planet and speaking to some of the biggest stars in the business – that's just what Jamie does. Jamie has also written for outlets like SFX and the Sunday Times Culture, and appeared on podcasts exploring the wondrous worlds of occult and horror.