The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Curzon Home Cinema] - A WHITE, WHITE DAY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Curzon Home Cinema] - A WHITE, WHITE DAY

a white white day review
A grieving, semi-retired, rural cop is tortured by his uncovering of his late wife's affair with another local man.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Hlynur Palmason

Starring: Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir, Hilmir Snær Gudnason, Sara Dogg Asgeirsdottir

a white white day poster

Orson Welles once famously dismissed the films of Michaelangelo Antonioni as "perfect backgrounds for fashion models." Far be it from me to argue against the director of Citizen Kane, but in this regard Welles seems to have missed the point of how Antonioni's films - and to an even greater extent, the films of Tarkovsky and Malick - aren't simply concerned with their human characters, but with the natural and man-made environs they inhabit.

I don't think Welles would be a fan of A White, White Day, the sophomore feature from Icelandic writer/director Hlynur Pálmason, which focusses its camera as often on its protagonist's surroundings as on its leading man. If you have a backdrop as overwhelming as that of Iceland, I guess it's hard not to point a camera at its formidable terrain. I'm leaning towards Welles' point of view in this case however, as unlike Antonioni, Tarkovsky and Malick, Pálmason's fascination with his film's landscape detracts from rather than adds to the point of his film.

a white white day review

A White, White Day is a drama cum thriller, though it's low on both drama and thrills. It follows Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson), a semi-retired cop who attempts to cope with the grief of losing his wife in a car accident by building a home for his daughter and her family. Ingimundur is one of those tough bastards you only find in windswept locales like rural Iceland. His icy stare could split trees and he could probably beat a gorilla in an arm-wrestling match. Needless to say, outward displays of emotion don't come naturally to him.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Family Romance, LLC ]

One day, while going through some of his wife's possessions, he discovers a camcorder tape on which his late love has recorded herself enjoying a sexual tryst with a local man, Trausti (Björn Ingi Hilmarsson). Ingimundur begins to investigate Trausti, even putting in a cynical tackle against him during a football match, and grows increasingly unstable with the growing realisation that the life he shared with his late wife may have been a charade.

a white white day review

Pálmason's juggling of his movie's disparate revenge thriller and grief drama subplots makes for a frustrating watch. Both elements merely interfere with, rather than complement, each other. Viewers who approach A White, White Day expecting another entry in the ever popular 'Nordic Noir' will be exasperated by how long it takes for the film to finally get around to its thriller plot. Anyone looking for a compelling exploration of grief (something Nordic cinema has long excelled at) will likely find the thriller subplot too cartoonish and melodramatic for their tastes.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Lynn + Lucy ]

Similarly, Pálmason's insistence on focussing as much on Ingimundur's environment as on his own personal troubles provides both the movie's most striking and most ill-advised sequences. The film opens with an impressive piece of "How did they do that?" filmmaking as the camera follows the car driven by Ingimundur's wife through a dense fog and over the railing off the cliff that seals her fate. Later, Ingimundur almost has a fateful road accident himself when a large rock seems to materialise from nowhere in the middle of the same stretch of road. When he tosses it over a cliff, we follow the rock as it barrels down the cliff face, over another cliff edge and eventually comes to rest at the bottom of a lake. Much like the tennis ball sequence in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, it's a startling reminder of the world that continues to exist beyond the film's protagonist.

a white white day review

At the other end of the filmmaking spectrum are such poorly judged sequences as a montage of townsfolk's faces staring into the camera as though in judgement of Ingimundur's actions (it reminded me of that horrendous sequence in Magnolia where all the characters burst into song), and a fight with two fellow cops that descends into Three Stooges-esque physical comedy, if unintentional.

When Sigurdsson is allowed take centre stage, and particularly in Ingimundur's sweet interactions with his precocious granddaughter (Ida Mekkin Hlynsdottir, providing the film with its emotional core), A White, White Day is a well observed, intimate human drama. But too often Pálmason takes us away from this duo, instead playing out wide shots for what can seem an interminable amount of time. In the movie's most, dare I say it, pretentious sequence, the camera stays put on a TV set and forces us to watch a tacky kids' show for about five minutes. In the closing shot, as Ingimundur sits back and mentally grapples with the many truths he's uncovered in recent days, Pálmason finally seems to accept that the most interesting thing a filmmaker can point their camera at is more often than not, the face of a talented performer.

A White, White Day is on Curzon Home Cinema from July 3rd.

2020 movie reviews