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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Combining strong sea currents, cold air, mountains and hot springs, Iceland is a place made for fog, a place where it can come sweeping in even in high places, turning everything white. On a day like this, they say that the dead will return to visit the living. On a day like this, Ingimundur’s wife accidentally drives off the side of the road, smashing through a barrier and disappearing into nothingness.
Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) never imagined being without his wife. This isn’t the life he expected; he carries on, trying to do what’s expected of him, but he can’t quite adjust to the wrongness of the situation. Asked to define himself by the therapist whom he’s been ordered to visit, he observes that he’s a father, a grandfather, a policeman. It’s the habits he’s learned in the latter role that get him in trouble.
A richly detailed character study created with Sigurdsson in mind, A White, White Day mingles some very dark dramatic moments with the comedy of the absurd. There is something inherently absurd about death and it’s something that men like Ingimundur cannot simply be told how to adjust to. Doing it by himself, he leaves unexpected casualties in his wake. The only person who gets close to cutting through it all is his young granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, holding her own impressively).
In the lead, Sigurdsson achieves the difficult task of showing us a man who is repressing his emotions yet giving us enough access to them to understand what’s going on, to look beyond the bursts of rage and see somebody who is full of love and warmth. Director Hlynur Palmason takes us up into the high, wild places, but lets us see only a little way ahead. His film is full of mid-shots in small rooms, characters crowded together. Ingimundur needs to find a way through, to discover a space of his own in which he can see clearly.