Saturday, 28 November 2015

WHITE RAVEN - Review by Greg Klymkiw - 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival

White Raven (2015)
Dir. Andrew Moxham
Starring: Andrew Dunbar, Aaron Brooks, Shane Twerdun, Steve Bradley,
Cindy Busby, Sarah Smyth, Catherine Michaud

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The oft-used phrase "the script's the thing" and its variants on a similar theme may well have entered the industry lexicon as cliches, but the fact remains that good writing ultimately makes for good movies. Some writing is so good, it can even be director-proof if the material is at least covered competently.

Luckily, White Raven is a picture that excels on both fronts. Writer-Director Andrew Moxham has delivered the goods on a movie that's as savage as it is creepy as it is altogether imbued with humanity. It also works very nicely on the most enviable perch of "what the fuck".

You're watching the picture, hopefully with no expectations going in (as it was for me) and you're gripped by the opening sequence, but it gives you just enough information that you're in that wonderful "what the fuck" territory. Then it shifts perspectives and characters three more times. Each time, you're "what the fuck", but not in a bad way at all - each time, you want to know more and to shift forward.

One thing becomes certain during the picture's first third - you appear to be in a kind of Raymond Carver-Neil LaBute territory in terms of four separate stories detailing male-female relations going (or having already gone) sour. The mise-en-scene is grittily kitchen-sink (not unlike the early to mid 60s "angry young man" pictures of the British New Wave) and the writing is always charged with a nice balance of ambiguity and pointedness, tenderness and rage - bereft of the occasionally effective, but often nastily trick-pony characteristics Neil LaBute used to be accoladed for in films like In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbours (a bit too much emphasis on David Mamet-like rhythm with not as much feeling for pathos).

The next big "what the fuck" in White Raven comes at the end of the first act which, having introduced us to the four different sets of characters, makes it clear that the four male equations of the couple-strife-gymnastics are old buds who will be spending a weekend together in the wilderness (as they have for years).

This weekend is different though.

Booze, guns, relationship-hell-times-4-healthy-fellas, suicidal tendencies and a whack of other difficulties on the dis-unification front do not make healthy bedfellows at the best of times, but ESPECIALLY not out in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness.

Shit is going to happen and the keg of dynamite is on a slow, creepy sizzle.

You really need to know nothing else before seeing the picture. The script, direction, performances and technical credits are suitably edgy and effective from beginning to end and it's great to see a uniquely indigenous Canadian film which not only (inadvertently I suspect) swims in the same 70s waters as Canadian wilderness thriller classics like Rituals, but does so in its own unique fashion.

The movie always feels like its taking you to places you have been before - not in the movies, but in life. This is as exciting artistically as the pistol-whipping Moxham and company deliver emotionally - it's moving, rife with humanity and at times, scary as fuck.


White Raven is playing at the 2015 Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival.