MRR Review: "Whitewash"

Photo Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Rating: NR
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: May 2, 2014
Directed by: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Genre: Drama / Thriller

"Whitewash" stars Thomas Haden Church as Bruce, a desperate, unemployed snow plow driver. When Bruce's reckless behavior results in the death of a man, Bruce wanders out into the wilderness to avoid going to jail. Isolated in the Quebec wilderness, Bruce soon begins to confuse reality with the past.

Plot Summary

"Whitewash" opens with Bruce, an unemployed snow plow operator, driving dangerously down residential streets. Obviously under the influence of alcohol, Bruce narrowly avoids crashing into parked cars and trees. His luck runs out when he strikes a man walking alone on the road. When he sees no witnesses around, Bruce decides to transport the body far from town.

After burying the body in a snow bank, Bruce gets his snow plow hopelessly stuck near the burial site. After a futile attempt to get back on the road, Bruce abandons the vehicle and wanders aimlessly into the woods. The next morning, Bruce awakens in the wilderness with no memory of how he got there.

The film then transitions to a series of flashbacks explaining the connection between Bruce and the man he killed. The man is a drifter named Paul who has been staying with Bruce for the past few weeks. Because Paul arrived just as Bruce was about to commit suicide, effectively saving his life, Bruce feels responsible for paying Paul back. As Paul extends his stay, he becomes increasingly dependent on Bruce and begins to take advantage of Bruce's hospitality.

The flashbacks continue, and Bruce's awareness of the situation comes full circle. He understands that the police are looking for him after discovering Paul's body. With no other choice, Bruce decides to forge a life in the wilderness, where the rough conditions repeatedly threaten his life.

Every time Bruce thinks he has found a way to survive in the wilderness, he somehow returns to the snow plow. The vehicle takes on the qualities of a sentient being for Bruce, which reminds him of his crime. As the days turn into weeks, Bruce's reality becomes distorted by the monotony of his surroundings and his continuous struggle to survive.


Thomas Haden Church plays Bruce, the only main character in "Whitewash." Despite a lack of a full cast, Church creates a character that drives the movie forward and captures the audience's attention. Most of the dialogue takes place either inside of the character's mind or through flashbacks showing the days leading up to accident that ends Paul's life.

Paul, played by Marc Labreche, takes advantage of Bruce's fractured mentality and comes off as one who believes he is entitled to everything in life. His character becomes important to Bruce's survival and, in death, gives Bruce a reason to live. The relationship between Paul and Bruce also explains the reason why Bruce decides to drive drunkenly through town, risking his own life and the life of others.

Film Analysis

The major events in "Whitewash" all happen within the first 20 minutes of the film. Although the situation seems to be resolved, the action is far from over. As the plot develops, the flashbacks add more depth to the story. The audience is able to find out Bruce's history moments before Bruce remembers what happened. This makes watching Bruce's reactions extremely intriguing, as he gradually realizes his connection to the victim.

There are enough flashbacks to break up Bruce's desperate attempt to survive the Quebec wilderness. His survival efforts, however, do make for interesting viewing. He makes some progress initially, but it seems as though no matter how hard he tries, he ends up back at the snow plow. This appears to signal that the only way out for Bruce is to turn himself in for the crime.

As the plot winds down, Bruce's mental state continues to deteriorate. Toward the end, it is difficult to discern what is actually happening and what is occurring only in Bruce's mind. Although it is at times challenging to follow what is actually happening, the blurring of reality offers a realistic glimpse into the effects of being alone and dealing with the realization of taking another person's life.

The plot is pulled together with excellent cinematographic techniques and a powerful score. The camera alternates between close ups of Bruce's face to reflect the emotions passing through his mind and long shots panning over the wilderness to accentuate just how alone he is. In the absence of steady dialogue, the score punctuates the events in the film and mirrors Bruce's changing emotional state and increasingly erratic behavior.

Bruce's story is at times difficult to watch, but his drive to survive and acceptance of his situation make the film very intriguing. Although there are only a handful of characters and limited dialogue, powerful filming techniques and informative flashbacks provide enough depth to make the film worthy of watching.