The native legend of the White Raven involves a mythical bird stealing light to brighten a dark world. Some say this act was for a better society, while others think it was a self-serving venture. Director Andrew Moxham uses this legend to explore the dark side of brotherhood. Opening with a sweeping bird’s eye view of a dense, endless forest, White Raven takes us on a journey that will forever change the lives of four friends.
A much needed boy’s weekend has been planned for Pete (Steve Bradley), Dan (Shane Twerdun), Jake (Aaron Brooks) and Kevin (Andrew Dunbar). They all have different lives and each has his own share of problems: One is unable to forget an ex-girlfriend, another has a friend with benefits who is pregnant, there is the guy who numbs his pain with booze, and the fourth friend knows his wife is cheating on him. Despite these issues, nothing will stop them from keeping up the tradition of their annual get-together. This time around they jaunt into the woods for camping, drinking and to forget their less-than-perfect existences.
It is in this serene setting that the men notice that Pete isn’t acting like himself. He is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and the White Raven legend. Though the group tries to keep things jovial, old secrets die hard, and Pete has a grudge to settle in the worst case scenario kind of way.
White Raven shows the dangers of all-consuming disappointments. Each man thinks the other lives a better existence. Experience dissatisfaction within their circumstances, each one is hungry for a piece of happiness but are they willing to pay the ultimate price for it? The use of chorale music creates a powerful and haunting atmosphere. It gives the film an ominous feel as the action unfolds. Combined with the slow-build pacing, the tension is compelling and sustains the viewer’s interest all the way to the film’s shocking finale.
The secluded wilderness allows Moxham to not only focus on the groups’ complex relationships, but also showcases the strong ensemble performances as well. Bradley’s turn as Pete is an impressive and seething portrayal of madness and contempt. All of which is cultivated by a broken heart and his voluntary isolation from modern life. Twerdun and Dunbar’s uneasiness is believable as they wonder if it was the wilderness or their friend that they should fear more. Lastly, Brooks really stood out for his humorous work as a functional drunk who frequently makes light of his depression and loss.
Through its chilling story and sharp performances, White Raven reminds us that man is truly his own worst enemy.
Sunday, November 29, 4:00 PM, Carlton Cinemas
Tickets can be purchased at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival website.