Movie Review: Whitewash (2013, Dir. Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais)


Whitewash is a lonely film. It opens with scattered lines of dialogue from Bruce, played by Thomas Haden Church, as he drunkenly strikes and kills a man with his tractor on a snowy night. Bruce immediately dumps the body off the side of the road, then seeks refuge deep in the woods, driving until he passes out completely. The body he has disposed of turns out to be Paul. Played by Marc Labrèch, Paul is a man down on his luck who Bruce had decided to take in until he got back on his feet. Prior to the accident, both men had seen better days. Bruce has lost his wife and his job, and Paul has amassed a huge gambling debt.

The feeling of solitude and loneliness is amplified by the sparse and harshly cold Canadian woods in which Bruce spends the majority of his time on the lam in. Director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais maintains an open, empty environment throughout the film — one where company is something be wary of, rather than welcome. It’s an effective way to empathize with what life is like for a self described “good man” who has just committed murder; combining a mix of paranoia and desperation, blanketed with cold white silence. He has no one to talk to, no one to confide in.


Bruce’s only company throughout that time is the very tractor that helped put him into this mess, and his thoughts. Bruce’s memories help to flesh out the relationship these two men had. Initially, we find out bits and pieces through the dreams that Bruce has, but as his situation becomes bleaker, he starts to lose his grip on reality and the flashbacks happen with an increasing frequency, triggered by common conversations or objects he encounters.

It’s a nice touch how director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais made Bruce’s descent into madness almost unnoticeable. In fact, it wasn’t until the final line of the movie that the realization hit me that this probably isn’t how any reasonable man who has just killed should react.

And it’s easy to miss too. It’s easy to forget that other people do belong in this world, that taking refuge in a family getaway home is morally questionable at best. Part of that lies in Church’s performance. You really get a feel for what type of man Bruce is. You want good things to happen to him, and you want him to get away from this horrible accident.

What’s more interesting is that Whitewash is a film comprised almost entirely of a solo performance by Church. It’s a deliberate, often quiet performance that manages to add a sense of mystery to the unraveling story. This could have been very droll, or even forgettable, given the scenery and desolate feel, however Church manages to carry the film almost on his own. This is not to imply the other performances are weak, which they are not, but Church is alone on screen for the bulk of the runtime..

Whitewash ends up feeling foreign, and a bit intimidating. Not just because it takes place in Quebec, but because of how empty everything feels as a whole. It all comes together exceptionally well, and the reclusive performance that Church provides coupled with the wintry backdrop truly makes Whitewash a memorable experience.

Whitewash is currently available on VOD from Oscilloscope Labs, as well as on digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and XBOX Live.

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