Thursday, June 25, 2020

Movie Review: A White, White Day

A White, White Day **** / *****
Directed by: Hlynur Palmason.
Written by: Hlynur Palmason.
Starring: Ingvar Sigurdsson (Ingimundur), Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir (Salka), Hilmir Snær Guðnason (Olgeir), Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir (Ingimundur's wife), Björn Ingi Hilmarsson (Trausti), Elma Stefania Agustsdottir (Elín), Haraldur Stefansson (Stefán), Laufey Elíasdóttir (Ingibjörg), Sigurður Sigurjónsson (Bjössi), Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson (Hrafn), Þór Tulinius (Georg - Psychiatrist), Sverrir Þór Sverrisson (Sveppi). 

The main character in A White, White Day discovers that his late wife was having an affair before she died in a single car wreck – memorably portrayed in the hypnotic opening scene. He is already reeling from the death, and now his grief mixes with his anger – and overwhelms everything in his life. He has nowhere to put his rage, no one to confront about the affair – at least at first – and so his anger spills out into every other aspect of his life – most disturbingly into his relationship with his young granddaughter – who he adores, but because he’s around her so much, she will bear the brunt of some of his anger.

But while A White, White Day takes the form of a revenge thriller, it moves at its own pace, and is really more about Ingimundur’s obsession than about revenge. The film takes its cue for its pacing on the harsh, Icelandic environment in which it takes place. It is a small, rural community – one where you know almost everyone else, and seemingly not much happens. Ingimundur is a cop – part time now that he is approaching retirement age – but the police force, such as it is, doesn’t seem overly busy. He spends much of his time fixing up a house for his daughter, son-in-law and beloved granddaughter, Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) – which he does mostly in solitude.

Written and directed by Hlynur Palmason, A White, White Day makes some offbeat choices on what to focus on, and what not to show. Ingimundur, while going through his wife’s things, finds evidence of the affair – but doesn’t do much about it for a while, other than stew about it. He will eventually start to obsess over the other man – but not until we’ve seen how this all infects the rest of his life. Even a seemingly innocent event – liking tucking Salka into bed – becomes fraught with tension as Ingimundur takes the story too far, even when it becomes clear he is scaring Salka – he keeps pushing, subtly, but cruelly.

Ingvar Sigurdsson is terrific in the lead role. He plays his character as someone who has bottled up all of his emotions. He doesn’t talk about his wife very much to anyone – the closest thing we get to his grief in terms of what he says is when he states “She used to cut my hair – I miss that” – which stands in for all the things he misses about her, but cannot, will not talk about. It is a remarkably controlled performance.

Eventually, of course, not everything will stay so bottled up – and Ingimundur will take things too far, and risk ruining everything. So concerned with the past, that he is letting it infect his present – and perhaps ruin his future. It all builds to a stunner of a final shot, which like the rest of this wonderful film, is slow and subtle – but builds to an emotionally overwhelming final moment. A White, White Day is sleeper – but one well worth your time.

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