Movie Review: A White, White Day11th December 2020
How far would you go to uncover a deeply-buried truth? Based on nothing but a hunch, at what point would you give up attempting to uncover something that doesn’t sit right with you? We like to think we wouldn’t, that we don’t have a breaking point when it comes to seeking out the morally justifiable answers to some of the hardest or muddled questions. To err is human, as someone much smarter than I once said. A White, White Day takes this concept given to us from Alexander Pope and presents the idea that we could avoid human errors and narrowly glimpse the truth, but director Hlynur Pálmason considers whether such a revelation would be worth it.
For the human spirit, it would be worth it. To come even feasibly close to a natural truth is a moral achievement, but A White, White Day looks to deal with the controversy and obvious issues brought up by a suspicious, off-duty police officer. His hunch is a local man had an affair with his wife, who has recently passed away. With grief and a niggling sense of doubt clashing together in the mind of Ingimundur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson), we’re presented an exposition of inner turmoil. How grief affects a seemingly placid and content man, and how lust and loss will drive people to unimaginable extremes.
As a character, Ingimundur serves as an engaging lead. Sigurðsson brings maturity to the role, his early moments on camera show him as a passive, grieving man. Soon the grief turns into unrest, and from there A White, White Day revels in the emotive core it looks to preserve with all its might. There are moments where the film should risk itself, though. Exposing characters with genuine flaws and weaknesses is far bolder than fluttering with the ideas presented. Whilst there is a sense that the film goes far enough, we can always ask for more. A White, White Day has the potential to provide it. The brisk efficiency of the crew is marvellous, but natural, flowing scenes would be somewhat preferable to achingly long establishing shots. Beautiful, yes, but what good do we get out of musing the same few ideas over and over? Especially with such limited change and variety to such a message.
A White, White Day is competent and enjoyable. Remarkably strong leading performances and a director to keep your eye on, there’s something in here that brings out the best in those portrayed. Still, much work to be done if Pálmason wishes to craft the great Icelandic drama. He misses the mark, but he’s closer than anyone has been to it in years. Formidable stuff, and hopefully serving as a breakthrough for wider audiences. A craftsman well worth engaging with, he has a knack for creativity, but its application needs to be formed in a way that doesn’t adhere to the usual restrictions or pitfalls of the genre.