US | 2013 | Directed by Zach Clark
Logline: After an unexpected tragedy a suburban woman struggles to put her life back together in the days leading up to Christmas.
A labour of love for Zach Clark who wrote, produced, directed, and edited this bittersweet, black as coal comedy about one woman’s clutching of straws as she reconciles with life’s rich tapestry of cruelty and desire. If Bad Santa is the wicked bourbon, then White Reindeer is the naughty eggnog.
It’s almost a one-woman show as Anna Margaret Hollyman’s Suzanne plays front and centre, stumbling from one peculiar situation to the next, grasping for the light switch in the darkness of her quiet despair. It’s a pearler performance indeed. Laura Lemar-Goldsborough lends terrific support as a stripper called Autumn, whose real name is Fantasia (it’s that kind of comedy), who oozes charisma, but quietly charms.
Also of note, peripheral, but crucial to Suzanne’s catharsis, are Joe Swanberg and Lydia Hyslop as Suzanne’s swinging neighbours George and Patti. They’re only in only a few scenes, but very funny as they ingratiate themselves into Suzanne’s life. They could almost have their own movie.
Christmas time has never felt so endearingly kitsch as it is in White Reindeer. There’s a Guy Maddin-esque surrealism to the atmosphere, a melancholy that permeates the droll sense of humour. Suzanne’s predicament teeters on being pathetic, but then she pulls herself back from the abyss. The ghost of Christmas present will be her saviour; she only needs to decide whether she follows the spirit of the past, or the call of the future.
Amidst Suzanne and Fantasia’s partying indulgences (the lofty dandruff of Santa Claus!) and the revelations of the indiscretions of the husband she thought she knew, there is a curiously touching festive movie at the heart of White Reindeer. The devious tone is delicate, but oh so deliberately tugging at the heartstrings. You might not be aware of it whilst the tinsel unfolds, but Suzanne’s tender plight is one holly-tinted satire that’s sure to win many hearts and minds.