Review by Sean Boelman
Written and directed by Hlynur Palmason, A White, White Day is a new revenge movie unlike any to grace the screen to this point. Beautiful and contemplative, this film may be too emotionally exhausting for some viewers, but it is a powerful and rewarding watch nevertheless.
The movie follows a police officer on leave after the tragic death of his wife as he struggles to stay afloat, care for his granddaughter, and find out the truth about his suspicions of his wife having had an affair. It’s a relatively conventional story told in a thoughtful and poetic way, making it a welcome and necessary addition to a genre that has experienced a resurgence in recent years.
The thing that is likely to prevent some viewers from getting invested in the film’s story is its meandering pacing. Although there is a lot happening in the narrative, the conflict doesn’t really kick in until the final act. Those haunting first two acts are absolutely breathtaking, though, and arguably even more emotional than the intense finale.
With this movie, Palmason offers a compassionate look at the grieving process and how people learn to process their emotions while still trying to function in the world around them. There are a handful of scenes in the film that are absolutely gut-wrenching, the most impactful of which comes around the end of act two when the protagonist cracks.
Part of what makes the movie so emotionally-resonant is that Palmason roots the story strongly in character development. Even though some of the events that happen in the story could come off as a bit over-the-top, the reality with which Palmason has written the protagonist keeps the film very grounded.
Ingvar Sigurdsson gives an amazing performance in his lead roles. He brings so much humanity and empathy to the character and handles the difficult subject matter with ease. His chemistry with young actress Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, who plays his granddaughter, is absolutely phenomenal and gives further layers of emotion to the movie.
Undoubtedly the strongest part of the film, though, are its visuals. The chilly and crisp cinematography by Maria von Hausswolff is among the best one will see all year. Every single frame of the film is absolutely beautiful, and while it’s a shame that the movie won’t get a theatrical release stateside, at least viewers have a chance to admire the artistry of the film.
A White, White Day is definitely not an easy watch, but it is one of the most gorgeous movies of the year. The sophomore feature from Hlynur Palmason, this shows that he has tremendous talent as a filmmaker and is one of the most exciting voices to come out of European art cinema in recent memory.
A White, White Day is now streaming online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.