Runtime: 109 Minutes
Writer/ Director: Hlynur Pálmason
Stars: Ingvar Sigurdsson, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason
By Bianca Garner
“On such days where everything is white and there’s no longer any difference between the Earth and the Sky, then the dead can talk to us who still are living.” This ancient proverb is our introduction to the world of Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day”. Eerie, haunting but beautiful words that perfectly encapsulate this eerie, haunting and beautiful film.
This is a film about one man’s struggle with grief and the crushing realization that his beloved wife who has passed away, wasn’t the person he thought her to be. The dead are complex, puzzling beings who led complicated and messy lives when they were alive, sometimes their secrets are buried with them, but more often than not, a few skeletons fall out of the closet. We can choose to accept the fully-rounded person, warts and all, or we can simply hold onto our carefully constructed idolising memories of them.
Ingvar Sigurðsson plays Ingimundur, a retired cop who seems concerned about two things in his life. Building a house (in one scene his therapist asks him what he wants to do with his life, and he replies back bluntly, “to build a house”) and his eight-year-old granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). The rest of the world including his daughter, and brother seem to be a nuisance to him. Although they do have the right to be concerned about him. Ingimundur’s wife has tragically died in a car accident, a scene we see brilliantly captured at the very start of the film, where we watch the car weave across the road through the thick fog before going off the side of a hilltop.
“There’s such gravitas in this performance, and Sigurðsson manages to convey so emotional depth to this character without relying on dialogue.”
After receiving a box full of his wife’s belongings, Ingimundur discovers a shocking secret about his wife that shakes the very foundation of their marriage. So, begins a tale of revenge of sorts. Although, “A White, White Day” isn’t really about revenge, it’s a journey through one man’s grief process and his struggle to regain a connection with humanity. The power of this film lies in Sigurðsson’s performance, presenting us with a man closed-off from his emotions, never crying.
There’s such gravitas in this performance, and Sigurðsson manages to convey so emotional depth to this character without relying on dialogue. As the film progresses, Ingimundur begins to unravel, lashing out at those around him, until inevitably he snaps at Salka in what is the film’s most heartbreaking and gut-wrenching moments.
There may be some who find Palmason’s approach to filmmaking and storytelling a little slow. Things occur slowly, events and scenes gradually unfold before the final act erupts. If you can get through the film’s first opening fifteen minutes then you should be fine. The film’s opening is almost a test of one’s patience and endurance.
“If you are able to stick with “A White, White Day” you will find it to be an absolutely powerful portrayal of the complexities of grief and loss.”
Palmason and cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff present us with a wonderful montage at the start of the film just focusing on the Ingimundur’s house under construction as we pass through the seasons. There’s no camera movement, just a static long shot establishing the house and we watch as the environment changes. The outside world keeps going on even when those we love have passed away.
Edmund Finnis’ score is also magnificent, a brilliant frenzy of strings which seem to increase in tempo whenever Ingimundur’s emotional state becomes more manic and he begins to be consumed by his grief. The film also features strong supporting performances from the likes of Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Elma Stefania Agustsdottir and Haraldur Stefansson. Although, the real shine out star here is the wonderful Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir whose scenes with Sigurðsson are the real heart and soul of this film.
Overall, if you are able to stick with “A White, White Day” you will find it to be an absolutely powerful portrayal of the complexities of grief and loss. An inspiring tale of the power of love and compassion, and how we all need to remain connected with the world around us. There may be days where the dead talk to us, but we need to remember to listen to the living too.