White Bird in a Blizzard

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
White Bird in a Blizzard Movie Poster Image
Uneven but well-acted drama is disturbing; lots of sex.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Kids don't ever really know their parents, and they shouldn't assume they understand the intricacies of their parents' marriage. Also highlights how teenagers can be sexual beings who make decisions based on their physical need for intimacy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most of the characters are liars, cruel, emotionally manipulative, or worse. Kat makes many questionable decisions -- like sleeping with the detective working on her mother's case.

Violence

Domestic violence within a marriage. A mother disappears; an investigation is launched to determine whether it's foul play or abandonment. A teenager dreams of her mother dying, bloodied, lying naked and nearly dead in the snow, frozen in ice, etc. The possibility of murder is addressed several times.

Sex

17-year-old Kat says that because she's already had sex, it's all she can think about all the time. She asks her boyfriend to have sex a few different times and reminisces about when they used to do it more often. She makes frequent crude comments about sex (i.e. "If I don't get d--k soon, I'm going to die"). Kat's first time with he boyfriend is depicted in a realistic manner, with them both naked on her bed (one shot shows them from the side on top of each other) and with a close-up shot of the guy's bare chest against her visible breasts. At 18, she has sex with a much older man who's in a position of authority; another scene shows an underage man in bed with an adult man. Kat's older lover makes suggestive comments about her body and what he's going to do to her, but the actual sex isn't shown in detail (they're shown kissing and then bare-shouldered under the sheets). A married couple's dissatisfying sex life is discussed, with their daughter contemplating that her mother doesn't have orgasms and her father masturbates to pornography (he's shown with his hand down his pants while looking at Hustler magazine).

Language

Frequent strong language includes many uses of "f--k" as both an expletive and euphemism for sex, plus "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," and exclamations like "Jesus!"

Consumerism

Kat's dad drives a Volvo, and she has a Joy Division poster in her bedroom.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kat asks her boyfriend if he was at a friend's house getting stoned, and he coyly answers, "maybe." He's later shown smoking a joint in her bedroom. Underage teens drink in a couple of scenes.
 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although White Bird in a Blizzard stars teen fave Shailene Woodley (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars), it's a mature independent drama with heavy themes and subject matter. Part coming-of-age tale and part Gone Girl-like mystery about what happened to Woodley's on-screen mother (Eva Green), it includes frequent conversations about and references to teen sex, and the main character is preoccupied with how often she can have it, either with her boyfriend or, later, a much older man. Woodley also appears partially nude (her breasts are in full view in one lingering first-time scene) a couple of times. The language is almost as mature as the sex ("f--k" is used many times, as are "s--t" and "a--hole"), and the violence includes references to domestic abuse and murder. Teens also smoke pot and drink.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bygmvyoshi February 13, 2015
Teen, 15 years old Written bywhitneyrev February 1, 2015

Mixed feelings.

'White Bird in a Blizzard', directed by Gregg Araki starring praised, teen actors such as Shailene Woodley and Shiloh Fernadez is a mature thriller ab... Continue reading

What's the story?

Director Gregg Araki tackles a gritty coming-of-age tale in his adaptation of author Laura Kasischke's WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD, the mystery of how, when young Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley) was 17, her beautiful, unhappy mother, Eve (Eva Green), disappeared without a trace. Kat and her father (Christopher Meloni) have no idea where Eve has gone and report her absence to a detective (Thomas Jane), who believes that she has most likely abandoned the family. Meanwhile, Kat is preoccupied with sex; her boyfriend, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), who lives next door; and upsetting dreams she keeps having of her mother, who usually appears in a blizzard saying disturbing things. Kat starts seeing a therapist, Dr. Thaler (Angela Bassett) to work through her issues, but as the months pass, it becomes clear that perhaps Kat is suppressing what she might know about her mother's disappearance.

Is it any good?

Audiences expecting their favorite young adult-adaptation heroine to channel Hazel Grace or Tris should be warned -- this is Woodley playing a very different kind of teenager. Kat may be only 17-18, but Woodley is in her 20s, and this film is best reserved for adults who understand the nuances of adolescence and marital discord. There are unpredictable twists and turns, but they come a little too late in the film to keep audiences rapt through some of the more meandering portions in the middle. Overall, White Bird is wildly uneven, and the main character isn't particularly likable or relatable, but the performances are worth seeing, particularly Woodley and Green, who seems to be channeling Joan Crawford in her over-the-top depiction of an alternately bored and manic housewife.

Araki is best known for directing 2004's Mysterious Skin, a thorough exploration of adolescent sexuality that starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now, he's again turning his attention to a gifted young actor (in this case, Woodley) in a tale set during a time in life when sex grows into an almost obsessive preoccupation. Kat's mother is gone, but she doesn't concern herself too deeply with the "what ifs"; she just assumes her mother got sick of her domestic imprisonment and took off for a life of self fulfillment. Kat is much more interested in figuring out why Phil has all of a sudden stopped taking her up on her sexual advances. Kat's focus on sexual release is unsettling, especially when she sets her sights on seducing the macho and much older detective.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of coming-of-age dramas. How is White Bird in a Blizzard different than other modern dramas about adolescents?

  • How is teen sexuality depicted in the movie? Do you think Kat is right that teens basically spend all of their time thinking about sex? Do you think her sex life was healthy? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • What do you think the movie is trying to say about kids' perceptions of their parents and their parents' marriage? Do you agree that most teens don't really know their parents as individuals?

Movie details

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