A White, White Day

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A White, White Day
"A White, White Day mingles some very dark dramatic moments with the comedy of the absurd." | Photo: Courtesy of La Semaine de la Critique

Combining strong sea currents, cold air, mountains and hot springs, Iceland is a place made for fog, a place where it can come sweeping in even in high places, turning everything white. On a day like this, they say that the dead will return to visit the living. on a day like this, Ingimundur’s wife accidentally drives off the side of the road, smashing through a barrier and disappearing into nothingness.

Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) never imagined being without his wife. This isn’t the life he expected; he carries on, trying to do what’s expected of him, but he can’t quite adjust to the wrongness of the situation. Asked to define himself by the therapist whom he’s been ordered to visit, he observes that he’s a father, a grandfather, a policeman. It’s the habits he’s learned in the latter role that get him in trouble.

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When a loved one dies and all that remain are memories, it’s the hardest thing in the world to have those memories disputed – to learn that the person one is trying to keep alive might never have been real. Whilst Ingimundur might seem to be coping with his wife’s death, what he can’t cope with is the growing suspicion that she was having an affair, a possibility which he begins, compulsively, to investigate. How well did he really know her? Did she belong, in some vital part, to somebody else? Was the man she was seeing involved in her death? Questions bubble up in him, threatening to boil over, and he begins to have violent outbursts or temper. What will happen when he gets his hands on the man he suspects?

A richly detailed character study created with Sigurdsson in mind, A White, White Day mingles some very dark dramatic moments with the comedy of the absurd. There is something inherently absurd about death and it’s something that a men like Ingimundur cannot simply be told how to adjust to. Doing it by himself, he leaves unexpected casualties in his wake. The only person who gets close to cutting through it all is his young granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, holding her own impressively). The child’s unwillingness to tolerate bullshit seems more helpful to him than any amount of sympathy.

In the lead, Sigurdsson achieves the difficult task of showing us a man who is repressing his emotions yet giving us enough access to them to understand what’s going on, to look beyond the bursts of rage and see somebody who is full of love and warmth. The way Ingimundur’s relatives and colleagues treat him contextualises what we are presented with and helps us to root for this troubled man even at moments when we become afraid of what he might do.

Director Hlynur Palmason takes us up into the high, wild places, but lets us see only a little way ahead. His film is full of mid-shots in small rooms, characters crowded together. Ingimundur needs to find a way through, to discover a space of his own in which he can see clearly.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2020
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An off-duty police chief begins to suspect a local man to have had an affair with his wife, who has recently died in a car accident. Gradually his obsession for finding out the truth accumulates and inevitably begins to endanger himself and his loved ones.


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