Directed by Hlynur Pálmason
Starring Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason
Tensions seem to be boiling away at the centre of this Icelandic film, despite the assured calmness it tries to put on display. But A White, White Day succeeds more in building up its uneasiness than it does in showing what it’s built up to, with pacing issues and a wonky plot development steering this character study off course, despite a terrific lead performance.
Police officer Ingimundur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) appears content with his life, seemingly not having to do much police work at all, rebuilding his house, and spending time with his granddaughter. But there’s an underlining intensity simmering at his core. After his wife’s death in a car accident, he investigates through her old belongings – books, home movies – on the hunt to find the truth behind their relationship.
The film works so well initially because it easily lures the viewers in, not only being so handsomely filmed, but offering up just enough of this character and his history to lay out an uncomfortable menacing sense. Yet for all of its brooding, things end up feeling more pedestrian that we expected.
It opens up with a static shot of the outside of the house Ingimundur is working on, cutting between various different parts of the year, showing the different stages of the weather and the house’s development. It’s an impressive set-up, but like the other intriguing moments of the film, feels superfluous and tenuous. The surveillance televisions that show Ingimundur’s drive through the mountains are another example, this eerie and visually intriguing motif never coming to much of a pay-off, literally or metaphorically. As the film gets closer to its finale, you strain your brain trying to find the link between these elements.
The beginning paces out its story so well, giving us such an uneasy feeling. Yet as the film gets into its third act, there’s the realisation that it hasn’t been quick enough. A key character towards the end should’ve been more present at least since the middle of the film, as he surely would’ve been prominent in Ingimundur’s mind, but instead his sudden insertion in the film’s gruelling climax just seems awkwardly rushed.
As much as it wants to be a consistent film that utilises everything it puts up, A White, White Day eventuates into something piecemeal that has many impressive and intriguing moments throughout – but they don’t all fit into this puzzle.