Heartwrenching Affairs

The ‘white’ in Icelandic writer-director Hlynur Palmason’s new film enshrouds the story in the very opening scene. A car motors along a road in a blanket of thick fog, until it doesn’t – smashing through a roadside barrier and plunging over the side. The driver, we later learn, is the wife of Ingimundur (Ingvar Sigurðsson), a granite-faced local police chief who, when we finally meet him, is off work for compassionate leave.

This tightly-wound law enforcer busies himself by fixing up a local family homestead, with a spectacular view out onto the water, and looking after his young granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir). But while going through his wife’s personal effects, he discovers evidence that she had been having an affair. Later, he unearths a video tape of his late wife and her lover in a bedroom, torturing himself by watching it before smashing up his electronic equipment.

As much of a slow burn as A White, White Day is, you get the increasing sense that Ingimundur is becoming unhinged, a feeling that will come to pass in the film’s final third. This may not be a traditional Scandinavian noir – there is no murder or mutilated corpses to consider – but perhaps it could be regarded as the build up to one. Here, we witness the unravelling of a man who has seen his entire life come apart at the seams.

Particularly intriguing is his relationship with his granddaughter, with whom he spends the most time in the film. At one point, he semi-terrifies her with a creepy bedtime story that would have most adults quivering under the duvet. It’s not exactly appropriate parenting, but then Ingimundur is hardly in a good state of mind. He should barely be behind the wheel of a car, let alone in charge of an 8 year-old girl.

Featuring a marvellous turn from Sigurðsson (who has popped up in many a Hollywood production, from Everest to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), it’s also a daring showing from Palmason with what is only his second film after 2017’s Winter Brothers. An early sequence showing the passing of time, a long shot of Ingimundur’s renovation project being slowly put together, is just one of several arresting moments in this absorbing ride.

A White, White Day is available to stream from 3 July. For more details, click here.

James Mottram