Actor-turned-director Emanuel Hoss-Demarais’s debut feature, Whitewash is a bittersweet tale of a man slowly losing his mind in the vast openness of the snow covered mountains of Quebec. We see the cranky faced, freezing to death Bruce (Thomas Haden Church) in what appears to be a broken down snow plow. Our initial thoughts are that he is stuck there due to a snow storm, yet as the film progresses it is evident there is much more to this story.
At first, all we get are a couple of profanities alongside a cryptic, husky voice-over from the main character. We are then overloaded with a disorientating cocktail of flashbacks verse the present day. Effective choices nonetheless, which on one hand will make one more intrigued to find out where this is going to end up. On the other, some viewers may be confused by the constant jolty collide between both timelines. Demarais gets credit for the overall idea, albeit if you are after a smooth connecting story line, Whitewash may not be for you. Due to this, some may find the suspense used in anticipation for the resolution lacks punch down to clumsy delivery of other narrative aspects. Not to say the resolution wasn’t worth the wait, it just feels the filmmakers could have done a few things differently in order to gain something outstanding.
Even though the premise is intriguing enough, where the film really stands out are the performances given by the two leading actors. Acting alongside Church is veteran Canadian TV actor Marc Labrèche playing Paul, who does a fantastic job of making you hate him. Resulting in the viewer feeling no emotion when he gets what’s coming to him. Considering these two men are the only characters we see for the majority of the film, you will never get bored of watching them. Despite the films snail-like pace, the main aspect that keeps you engrossed is Church’s bizarrely ridged, yet emotionally crooked performance. The very atmospheric and intimate environment created by cinematographer Andre Turpin only emphasises the truth that Bruce is losing his mind.
Although this film is playing with time, by capturing the images in such a way it almost opens up another portal into somewhere entirely different. It is fascinating to watch Bruce fathom different scenarios in his head and repeatedly changing his story he would later tell the police. By the end of the film it is very easy to get in the mind set of Bruce, not knowing what us real and what has been made up.
Whitewash presents us with a solitary man who has nothing else than his troubled mind to keep him company. This independent feature may have its flaws, yet it challenges us to use our imaginations in order to decipher something quite original.
Guest blogger Gloria Daniels-Moss is a graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University. She is currently developing a TV series and has recently been lucky enough to produce and direct short films and music videos for local artists. You can read more of her movie reviews here.