But this is where writer-director Eamneul Hoss-Desmarais shifts gears on us. What could be a simple tale of a murder cover-up becomes a brooding character study in which flashbacks clue us in on who the dead man is and why Bruce felt compelled to murder his ass with a bulldozer.
In between these flashbacks, Bruce wanders the snowy forest in search of warmth and food. Along the way we’re treated to his anxious narration, which amounts to him attempting to convince himself that he did nothing wrong. The flashbacks reveal that Bruce is a lonely, alcoholic widower who’s been out of job since he got shit-faced and drove his bulldozer (that he uses as a snow plow) into a chicken joint. The corpse is Paul (Marc Labreche), an opportunistic gambler who befriends Bruce under some drastic circumstances.
How it came to this – Paul’s corpse buried under a blanket of snow in the Quebec woods – is gradually revealed as Eamneul’s comedy-of-errors plays out against the stark landscape. Like most great black comedies, Bruce’s fate is sealed by a sequence of shitty happenstances that completely blindside him. He’s not the most sympathetic guy, but you can’t help but feel for him as providence continues to drop one awful circumstance after another onto his lap. It’s not just the below freezing temperatures either. Bruce encounters vacationing yuppies, inquisitive hikers, and nosy neighbors as he just tries to get some damn gas for the bulldozer.
Throughout it all, Thomas Haden Church delivers a great deadpan performance. I loved the hell outta him in Killer Joe, and while Bruce has a little more brains than his character in that film, there’s still that “awww, dammit, why me” kinda demeanor. Over time, he develops a bizarre relationship with the bulldozer. Stuck out in the woods, it’s his only shelter, but he starts to mistrust the machine on an almost spiritual level. He talks to it and practices how he’s going to blame the murder on it. His inner ramblings combined with the bleak tone of the story make Whitewash a unique and wholly interesting experience. It’s like dark comedy by way of Jack London.
Whitewash is currently available from Oscilloscope Laboratories on all digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, and XBOX Live.
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