Whitewash movie review: snowed under by destiny

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Whitewash yellow light

It’s nowhere near as blackly funny as it wants to be, but Thomas Haden Church is strangely compelling as a man befuddled by the vagaries of fate.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Out one night in wintry Quebec on a drunken joyride in his snowplow — as you do — Thomas Haden Church (John Carter) accidentally hits and kills a guy walking in the middle of a blizzard. So he scoops the body up in the plow, hides it in a snowbank off the side of the road, and retreats into the woods to escape the cops and his guilty conscience by living in the cab of the plow. As you do. Eighty minutes later, the final line of the film suggests that everything that has come in the interim should have been a lot funnier — if in a bleak way — than it is, which is really not very funny at all. Still, there is something strangely compelling in Church’s performance as a man who is by turns befuddled by, infuriated by, and resigned to what life has handed him, a situation the extent of which we only slowly come to appreciate via flashbacks of his life before the fatal incident. It all started when he made a new friend in Paul (Marc Labrèche) by saving him from committing suicide — and if the public nature of his attempt suggests that perhaps Paul wanted to be saved, then the way Paul latches on to his savior may be confirmation of a desperation for some attention. It takes some effort, however, to tease satisfying meaning out of the muddled middle of the film, the first feature from actor turned director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais (who cowrote with Marc Tulin): cases can be made for men’s emotional repression warping into self-destruction, or the vagaries and ironies of unintended fate and inadvertent destiny. Though the film looks great, exuding a gloomy frigid desolation perfectly matched to the psychological pitch of the film — Hoss-Desmarais won Best New Narrative Director at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival — there isn’t quite enough meat here to sustain a feature. This probably would have worked better as a short, and the punch it delivers right at the end would have landed all the harder.

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