White Bird in a Blizzard is something unique – a touching coming of age story, a tense and unpredictable whodunit with a dynamite final twist, a study of marital discord, and a time capsule back to the late 80’s, all of it filtered through some surrealistic touches and flights of fancy for good artistic measure. Directed with customary style by Gregg Araki (The Doom Generation, Smiley Face, Mysterious Skin) who also wrote the genre-defying screenplay based off of Laura Kasischke’s novel, White Bird in a Blizzard feels like one of those movies that’s just waiting to be discovered by a passionate cult audience. Shailene Woodley, so wonderful in The Spectacular Now and The Descendants, was fantastic in the lead role of Kat Connor, a sexually blossoming high-school student with a phenomenally messed up mother (a whacked-out Eva Green) and a put-upon father (a quiet Christopher Meloni) who is trying to figure out what kind of woman she’s growing up to be.
The narrative is framed around Kat meeting with her therapist (a kindly Angela Bassett), flashbacks to Kat’s colorful childhood, and the various romances that Kat embarks upon (the boy next door, an older police officer, a college romance). Woodley is naked here – physically and emotionally – and I absolutely love watching her as an actress. She’s able to express vulnerability very well, and she has an unforced and extremely natural presence about herself as an actress. Green steals all of her scenes as the Mom From Hell, and I loved how Arakki upended expectations in more than a few instances, and then threw a killer twist at the viewer during the final moments. The bold and color cinematography by Sandra Valde-Hansen is frequently mesmerizing. This dark and lyrical film was a big surprise, and hopefully it finds a large audience at home. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.