While Shaleine Woodley’s soppy performance in Fault in Our Stars made me want to cry; she redeems herself in this twisted coming-of-age piece from Gregg Araki who brought us Kaboom an equally psychedelic and warped slice of cinema, amongst others.
Where White Bird in a Blizzard begins in conventional teenage angst and melodramatic statements and flashbacks, it soon begins revealing layers of darker sub-matter. This is why this film allows Woodley to transcend her performance in the afore mentioned teen-blockbuster.
Kat Connors (Woodley) begins by reflecting on the absence of her mother (the wondrous Eva Green). The playing out of this relationship through flashback, shows her mother to be a suppressed and depressed Stepford-wife-like character. She spends her days going through the motions; seething at the lack of affection shown by her husband; and raging jealously at the attention Kat gains from her pretty young looks.
It’s a messed up world we’re shown. But it appears to be realistic. The narcissism of Kat in concerning herself merely with her own romantic pursuits, show all the usual trademarks of self-absorption that is the emotional sponge of being a teenager. In constant need of validation from her peers, lovers and parents, we see her stumbling aimlessly through her adolescence into adulthood. Overarching these wanderings is the mysterious disappearance of her mother and the relationship she develops with the detective on the case (Thomas Jane).
Most of all Kat lacks strong adults. This is clear from the outset when she finds her mother fully dressed up in an evening dress lying on her daughter’s bed at 5pm in the afternoon. Children look to adults to model behaviour, show an example and provide a yardstick. We struggle to deal with situations when confronted with the humanity of our parents or adult figures. Likewise Kat’s father (Christopher Meloni) provides limited support (despite trying) when she is looking for answers. But then, maybe that’s what all adults are doing – looking for answers.
Kat’s quest for solving the disappearance of her mother, while also finding her place among the human race, is played out beautifully by Woodley. She is savvy and naïve simultaneously. This is not a normal coming-of-age movie and must be watched to the end for the startling twist in the final act.