24th Nov2014

‘White Reindeer’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Anna Margaret Hollyman, Laura Lemar-Goldsborough, Chris Doubeck, Nathan Williams | Written and Directed by Zach Clark


Christmas is meant to be about family and happiness, to some it’s even about religion.  When tragedy strikes though and Christmas is looming it can be a strange and ominous date where you want to be happy, but your emotions just don’t want to comply with the festive mood.  White Reindeer is a movie that takes the subject and looks at one woman’s struggle to fight loss and find a way to bring a place for herself and the changes in her life during the festive season.

Just as Suzanne Barrington (Anna Margaret Hollyman) appears to have everything she ever wanted it all gets ripped away with the murder of her husband Jeff (Nathan Williams).  When she discovers he was having an affair with an exotic dancer she tracks the woman down and befriends her.  Led down a road of partying, shoplifting and drugs she soon finds that these are not the answer to her problems as Christmas looms.

White Reindeer is a strange film as even though it seems at first to be a typical sentimental tale of Christmas tragedy and sentimentality it soon challenges what you expected of the film.  Director and writer Zach Clark presents us with a world where Suzanne’s normal life before her husband’s death is suddenly a monotonous and oddball world, and the newly discovered fun of parties, obsessional behaviour and even swinging make life interesting, but only for a short time.  Everything seems to be a contradiction and with a plot led by a very dry wit, White Reindeer is a film with a tone that puts the audience on a very strange edge.

Even with this offbeat feel to White Reindeer, this is not a weakness for the film.  What the audience is introduced to instead is an examination of the run up to Christmas with a simple question, what exactly does the festive season represent and what are we expected to make of it? Whether we take it as a religious holiday, a family celebration or just a chance to party and get wasted there is something about Christmas that demands we have a certain cheer about it, and White Reindeer is written with a viewpoint of discovering why.  Taking everything away from Suzanne and then seeing how she reacts, she wants to be happy and enjoy Christmas.  To do this she seeks many ways but never really finds that magical answer.  The friendship with Fantasia (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough) her husband’s other woman may just be the secret but the true answer is that happiness can’t be forced, it has to come naturally from within the person searching for it.

Anna Margaret Hollyman’s portrayal of her character gives White Reindeer a certain charm, though at times it tends to want to go off on weird tangents.  Suzanne’s obsession with finding a way to escape her problems leads her to a swinger’s party, theft, spending way too much money and even substance abuse (be it alcohol or drugs).  Hollyman never ventures into over acting to add humour to the character though, rather choosing to play Suzanne as bewildered and trapped in a world caving in around her and she naturally comes off as an amusing if not tragic soul.  We want her to find a place in the world, and find contentment even if she is fighting an uphill struggle against Christmas.

If you are looking for a more alternative film for Christmas that has a strangely offbeat amount of festive cheer then White Reindeer is well worth taking a look at.  There are depressing elements to the tale, but also laughter.  Most importantly though the characters are easy to empathise with, especially with the theme of Christmas and with a more realistic view on the subject of festive cheer.   Zach Clark takes a look at Christmas and if anything looks at what is important about the holiday season, and if we take anything from it, it should be that the only answer we can find comes from within ourselves.

****½  4.5/5

White Reindeer is available on VOD and DVD now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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