Astrid is looking for her own voice. A young woman domineered by her mother, she is a victim of circumstance. More or less. Her mother is an unwell person and more than a little needy. That would be all well and fine if she wasn’t also a killer who slayed her boyfriend upon a premonition. Her daughter, Astrid, is sent to a foster home and a whole bunch of dysfunction. From one home to the next Astrid tries her best to assert her identity against both her mother and violent society.
That is the basic plot of “White Oleander”. As with any emotional film geared towards woman (in the same manner which action movies are geared towards men) the plot and Mise-en-Scene are laden heavily with subtext, lingual cues, and existential angst. Case in point: you will likely break the bank in trying to crack the meaning of the flower (in movie) whose name is bears; white, grey, and blue hues overwhelm the film’s atmosphere. Take that with the action of the character and the poisonous nature of the plant and life… and well, have fun in constructing your “why I think [character Y is [so and so]” paper. All is well and fun but what I am trying to convey is that whether you see these signifiers as prominent or cheap would be a matter of debate.
At the end of the day I liked the film. As with any drama the acting was the strongest feature. Both female leads deliver powerhouse performances; the male members likewise as well but only to the supporting extent. I thought the music could have been better. It seemed overly dramatic in an easy way; like the music itself was chosen hastily because the composer couldn’t find or make anything better. It will serve its purpose but it won’t be particularly memorable. In any case, the inner drama of the protagonist’s mother and how it affected Astrid herself was more than enough to keep me entertained.