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White Rabbit. 2013. Dir. Tim McCann. Written by Anthony Di Pietro.
Starring Nick Krause, Sam Trammell, Britt Robertson, and Ryan Lee. Breaking Glass Pictures.
Unrated. 90 minutes.
White Rabbit is the story of Harlon (Krause) – a normal, awkward young man who is trying, like a flower stuck in a walk of pavement, to grow up through being constantly bullied at school and even at home by his forceful father and family. The beginning of the film show us his encounter with the titular rabbit, which is a moment that also closes out the film. This is something which reoccurs throughout; Harlon sees the white rabbit, over and over again.
His life really gets complicated once he meets a girl, much unlike the other people he knows at school, named Julie (Robertson). She is sort of like Harlon; jaded, broken, and though she tries to look tough underneath it all, very sad. They bond. His only other friend is another bullied young boy named Steve (Lee), who aside from being deemed an outcast looks pretty small and young for his age. Unfortunately Steve has a lot of problems, though Harlon tries to help as best he can.
Eventually, Julie goes away. Harlon is left by himself mostly, as Steve has his own problems and his own family with which to deal. Then suddenly Julie reappears, but now she is a whole new person; she had problems, went away, and come home new. Harlon can’t deal with this, especially after he sees Julie is with his high school nemesis, the one who bullied him most growing up. From here, things spiral out of control, as Harlon finally starts to fight back against his bullies, and darker, more rage-filled fantasies start to rise up in him.
A lot of other reviews I came across seemed to file White Rabbit away with a lot of lesser, similar films. Yes, the scenario here seems fairly close to other dramas. Yes, the way it plays out could remind you of other films. However, this finishes in a very unpredictable manner. I honestly didn’t expect the finale of White Rabbit. Though I had some idea where this might be headed, the finale of the film really did catch me off guard. Because you resign yourself to a particular ending and then just before the credits roll it does a switch on you, finishing instead with an ambiguous note. Well, not so much ambiguous, as we can guess what Harlon will do, or rather what we hope he will do, but still the director opts not to show us any decision; only the option for decision. Of course, you’ll understand more once you see it. I’m being deliberately vague, so as not to ruin anything. Just know that you don’t necessarily have all the answers. Wait until the very last moment.
The acting here was spot on. Nick Krause did a fine job as Harlon. We basically watch him transform from a little boy, pushed around and abused by everyone near him, to a teenager, to a young man, and still abused just as much as when we first saw him. The real transformation comes after he’s all but lost every last thing in his life worth being sane for, and snaps while on the verge of becoming something far worse than anyone could ever imagine. Some say his acting here was wooden; I disagree. He played things subtly. He acted quite well, making Harlon out to be a little boy still trapped in the body of a young and burgeoning man. Because of the people around him, he was never able to really become a man, stunted by constantly being told (by bullies and his own despicable father) he’s a pussy or a faggot, or some other just as hurtful and terrible insult. I’ve personally never seen Krause in anything else. After this, I’ll be sure to at least check out another film he’s been in, or will be in.
Britt Robertson is pretty energetic and pulls off the character of Julie well; she reminded me a lot of a few girls I knew in high school, really fit the part.
Particularly, though, I enjoyed Sam Trammell as Harlon’s father, Darrell. He was easy to hate because Trammell did a bang-up job. I really didn’t like him as a person, but as a character loved him. There was always a feeling just below his surface suggesting so much more about him than we actually get to see. I got the feeling Darrell was the typical sort of man who never became much, whether because of extenuating circumstances or his own doing who knows, but that’s the way he portrayed the character. Maybe Darrell was one of those hometown all-stars who played hockey or football growing up, everyone knew him, yadda yadda, and then never amounted to anything out in the real world. Regardless of what his actual story is, Trammell was great, and I really enjoyed watching his scenes with Krause; their troubled father and son dynamic truly worked.
For a small, relatively unknown film, White Rabbit really delivers. Although there are a few points which could have been edited out to save the film’s pacing, overall it is really wonderful. There are a ton of similar films, as I mentioned before, which might seem just as good. But if you stick with White Rabbit through until the end you’ll really get a treat.
I don’t often try to jump ahead of the plot in a film because for one it ruins things for me if I start guessing, and two I’d rather try to stay in the moment when I can, but I figured this one out early on. Not that it ruined things for me – on the other hand, I then sat back and enjoyed the performances, as well as some of the scenery which was beautiful at times. But I thought I knew how this would go. I didn’t. Not many films truly surprise me in that sense, so for that White Rabbit really should be highly recommended. It plays on our fears, relating the story of Harlon to other similar stories, but without the end provided here. This will suck you in. It’s not a controversial film. Essentially, I believe this is a hopeful film. The end provides a glimmer of it. Though it doesn’t actually go ahead and serve up hope by the slice or anything, the very final moment gives us a tiny glimmer we can hold onto and walk away with. That’s the final message of everything. It shows as a bright spot in the darkness. Sort of how Harlon dies one spot of his hair a pink-ish colour; one bright patch in a sea of black. I loved it. Anthony Di Pietro hasn’t written anything else I know of, though after this I really hope to see more, as the story of White Rabbit is impressive.
This has been shown at a few festivals, et cetera, since its release in 2013, but recently Breaking Glass Pictures apparently picked up the distribution end, so hopefully this will soon make a wider debut for people to enjoy it as much as I did when I was lucky enough to catch this.