Visual artist turned filmmaker Hlynur Pálmason has focused his directorial lens on a remote Icelandic town for his second feature A White, White Day. The drama centres around off-duty police chief Ingimundur (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) who is struggling to cope with the loss of his wife to a horrific road accident. As a coping mechanism, he takes fishing trips with his granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir), and spends his days renovating a house for his daughter’s family. By chance, he makes a discovery which leads him to believe that his wife had been having an affair, and before long, his suppressed grief and a simmering anger rise to the surface.
Long, wide, static landscapes are used as the brooding tone of the film is established, and the narrative revels in the slow-burn development of the central character. Despite the emotional pain Ingimundur is enduring, there’s a contentedness to his routine as he goes through the motions of mourning. A prominent string-led score from composer Edmund Finnis appears to reflect the protagonist’s unstable state of mind and when his suspicions of his late wife’s adultery take hold, the tranquillity goes terribly awry. Pálmason’s script delves into familiar revenge thriller territory as it moves into the third act, but the superb writing in the groundwork allows for a stirring finale as Ingimundur’s pent-up trauma escalates.
There’s a gentle grandfather and granddaughter relationship at the heart of the piece, and this is illustrated wonderfully by the performers. In his suffering, Sigurðsson has an emptiness and abandonment in his eyes like life has beaten him down but in the sequences with Hlynsdóttir, there’s a warmth to his mountainous presence. With his tufty grey beard and thick knitted jumpers, he’s a symbol of wisdom and safety for Salka, which makes it all the more powerful when she sees the damaged side of him threaten to break through. There’s an incredible scene towards the end where the sides of his persona collide, and their bond is strengthened in that moment by the honesty they share.
A White, White Day is a brilliant portrait of grief and frustration by Hlynur Pálmason. By opting for a stripped back approach as a screenwriter, he gives himself the creative platform to indulge as a director. His expressive style is deliberated but incisive, exhibiting a quietly evocative performance from Sigurðsson.