<i>White Reindeer</i>
Suzanne has very untraditional Christmas in White Reindeer.
(Credit: Courtesy of IFC Films)

Virginia real estate agent Suzanne Barrington’s (Anna Margaret Hollyman) perfect holiday plans are foiled when her husband is found murdered in her living room. Instead of receiving a Christmas miracle, Suzanne embarks on an expedition filled with dark humor and absurd experiences.

In the film White Reindeer, writer/director Zach Clark leads Suzanne on a unique journey as she tries to rebuild her life. Clark creates a satire on the suburban lifestyle that seems perfectly sufficient for a resident like Suzanne, until she no longer has anyone to share it with.

In the midst of her grief, Suzanne is then hit with unsettling news: her loving husband cheated on her with a stripper named Autumn (Laura Lemar-Goldsborough). Rather than crying or becoming furious, she sets out to learn about the “other woman.”

To deal with her loss and this saddening news, the widow devotes her attention to what is important to her, which in this case is Christmas. Suzanne uses the holiday as a means of distraction, and it almost acts as a mask for her inner turmoil. It becomes something she can rely on, and she goes over the top by trying to grasp onto this last thing that brings her joy. 

White Reindeer is no traditional Christmas movie; it has the essence of an "indie" one. By taking an unusual approach to Christmas, Clark does not create a cookie cutter film where every problem has a clean and simple solution. Instead, Suzanne is sent on an emotional rollercoaster leading her to experience outlandish things, raising questions that are never answered. These open-ended scenes create a sense of intrigue that is carried throughout the film as more questions pile up. However, Clark sees no reason to answer them, as if to say life is not simple -- you must make do with what you have.

Truthfully, Clark’s wittiness and tendency to leave the audience questioning can be off-putting at times. Instead of scenes playing off each other, he opts to cut between seemingly unrelated scenes for unknown reasons.

White Reindeer is neither particularly funny nor dramatic, but rather it coasts between the two with aspects of absurdity thrown in the mix. Rather than connecting with Suzanne and her journey to normalcy, you watch her at a distance, scrutinizing or applauding her actions.

Attempting to create a witty, modern approach to overcoming a loss during the holidays, Clark allows for some themes of inspiration to seep out between scenes of ridiculousness, making White Reindeer an interesting film to watch this holiday season.

Grade: B-

White Reindeer releases at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. Director Zach Clark will also be there in person on that date! To purchase tickets, click here.

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