White Bird in a Blizzard

I was 17 when my mother disappeared…

Shailene as: Katrina ‘Kat’ Connors
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Thriller
Director: Gregg Araki
Other Cast: Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Thomas Jane, Shiloh Fernandez, Dale Dickey
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $413k
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California

Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears – just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother’s absence and certainly doesn’t blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it’s almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve’s disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother’s departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it…

Facts and Trivia

Adapted from the novel of the same name by American fiction writer and poet, Laura Kasischke.

Gregg Araki based Shailene’s look on Winona Ryder’s style from the late 80s.

Gregg Araki is a fan of Sheryl Lee’s performance in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which he called “one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema”.

Sheryl Lee and Dale Dickey had both previously worked together in Winter’s Bone.

Eva Green, who plays Shailene Woodley’s mother in the film is, in reality, only 12 years older than Woodley.

Production Info

Filming began in late-November 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Shailene was photographed in full wardrobe with noticeably shorter hair that had been dyed a darker shade of brown.

Character Quotes

Further information not yet available.

Quoting: Shailene

On her character: She’s kind of your typical, angsty teenager when you first meet her and then as the movie progresses you find that there is a lot of turmoil and underground tribulations that nobody knows about.

On Kat’s relationship with her mother: I know a lot of people who weren’t very close with their parents, and never talked to them about anything. Kat probably never talked to her mom about personal things because her mom never asked, her mom never cared. And also, her mom is really damaging. That scene where she comes into her room, and calls her daughter a “slut”? That’s intense. More than not missing her, I think it was just the… the rebellion against missing such a cruel, cold human.

On the film’s themes and messages: I think that it’s very relatable because a lot of families feel this pressure to be something that they’re not, and it ends up creating a lot of inner-destruction because you’re not able to freely express your emotions or your feelings and you become stifled in that way.

On the film’s context: It takes place in the late 80s, early 90s, so I think a lot of people who are older will be able to look back on their adolescent years and relate to the goth aspect of it or the dreariness or the angstiness. And I think that teenagers who exist today will be able to relate to the feeling of not ever being enough, or not ever being able to freely express themselves.

On the film’s context: I was born in ’91, so I did not know that world at all. But the great thing about acting is we get to be great pretenders. We got to pretend to exist in a world that I would honestly love to exist in. That whole late ’80s — even early ’80s — scene is so fascinating to me, especially the grunge aspect of it, the punk and goth scenes. And Gregg knows that world so well. He was very helpful in educating me about certain trends I didn’t know. I knew most of the bands, but different styles of attire… It was different back then. They didn’t have the same technology, so you never see Kat sitting there watching TV.

On the soundtrack: The entire soundtrack is incredible. I love the ethereal, punky ‘80s, but I also love the dance-‘80s music. And Blondie.

On filming the sex scenes: My biggest thing in life is truth, whether it’s in movies, or your own personal life. There’s no room, no time for bullshit: just be truthful, honest, passionate, whatever. And in movies, I love and respect truth. Those are the kinds of movies I want to watch. So, for this film, sex was a big part of it, and it’s depicted truthfully. It wasn’t exploited, there wasn’t too much of it, and there wasn’t not enough of it. I think it struck a perfect balance. As an actor, you don’t really think about that in the moment. There’s the scene where Thomas Jane’s character seduces mine. It’s soooooo creepy, and so sexy at the same time. You think, “I shouldn’t be watching this, but I can’t stop watching it.” So when we were doing it, that’s how I felt. I thought, “I shouldn’t be pretending to be a sixteen-year-old, and be attracted to this sexy, strange environment…”

On working with Director Gregg Araki: I watched Mysterious Skin, oh my God, six or seven years ago. And I wanted to work with Gregg Araki ever since. And the opportunity to do a movie with him doesn’t come around that often. So I jumped on that bandwagon and told him, “I’d do anything to work with you.” But this script was so poetic, and dark, and thrilling, and different than anything I’d ever done. I also love the way he treated sexuality. We hide so many things in America. I’m really keen on European culture, where sexuality is who they are. And a lot of South American societies are comfortable with that. So I thought this was a fun opportunity to explore… A friend of mine said “You know, there aren’t a lot of movies where you see a female chasing a male for sex, or a female that enjoys sex.” And in this movie, she’s not just a female, but a young female chasing an older man for sex, not the older man chasing her. I thought that that was really refreshing. Whether it’s right or wrong — just to see that was cool.

Quoting: Cast and Crew

Director Gregg Araki: I first discovered Shai through her heartbreaking performance in The Descendants. Coincidentally, she was a big fan of Mysterious Skin and I’ve known her manager, Nils Larsen, for years. He insisted that I meet Shai and we hit it off instantly. This was years before Divergent came along. She read the script for White Bird, loved it, and immediately signed on. Shai actually reminds me a lot of Joe Gordon Levitt, who I worked with on Mysterious Skin. They are both incredibly talented and creative individuals who take their art very seriously – they’re not in it for fame or money or any of the bullshit. They both also have really great parents so they’re more centered and secure in themselves than some young actors who don’t have that kind of solid upbringing.

Critical Response

Chase Whale, The Playlist: The film’s standout performance may in fact be Woodley’s, which may confuse her younger fans, but please Hollywood. If her work in the film doesn’t scream “I’m an adult, hear me roar!” then nothing does. Her character has the filthiest mouth of the bunch, spends a great deal of the film nude and, at one point, has plenty of dirty sex with her boyfriend and blissfully describes co-star Thomas Jane’s lower anatomy to her teen pals. You will never look at Woodley the same way again, she’s all grown up and not a little ‘Descendant’ anymore, folks.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph: Thanks to The Fault in our Stars and the Divergent franchise, Woodley is the teen angst poster girl de nos jours, but this performance is subtler and richer than any other she’s given to date.

Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine: Woodley and Green are such fine actors, and so well-matched — Woodley’s hesitancy playing off Green’s inner fire — that they help smooth over some of the film’s dodgier elements.

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York: Shailene Woodley once again excelling in an emotionally tricky role: Kat, a 17-year-old blooming into her wild years while reckoning with an increasingly unhinged mother, Eve.

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: Truth be told, it’s good to see Woodley play something other than a sweetie-pie. Kat is not particularly nice and not terribly bright, but she knows what (and who) gets her pulse racing. It’s a neat portrait of a girl playing at being a tart before signing up for a life of bourgeois respectability.

Inkoo Kang, The Wrap: Woodley anchors the film with her nimble, earthy presence, even while the film experiments with cheerlessly garish, Douglas Sirk-influenced tableaux that never feel necessary, like Eve reaching out to her daughter, but missing her hands.

Scott Feinberg, ScottFeinberg.com: For the second Sundance in a row, Shailene Woodley has managed to deliver an incredibly layered performance as a teen on the eve of college. However unlike in The Spectacular Now, she’s playing a girl in full confidence, all bristling attitude and sexual deviance, and yet it nevers comes off false, despite Shailene’s naturally squeaky clean look.