Shailene Woodley is showing off a more adult side of herself in her upcoming movie, White Bird in a Blizzard. The 22-year-old actress has made a name for herself playing teenage roles in ABC Family’s Secret Life of an American Teenager and recent movies, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. But while her character in White Bird in a Blizzard is also young, her story enters much more mature territory.
Based on Laura Kasischke’s book of the same name and directed by indie filmmaker Gregg Akai, the movie stars Woodley as Kat Connor, a 17-year-old in the midst of her first serious relationship–and, subsequently, her first sexual experiences. But as the formerly shy teen begins coming into her own, her beautiful but unstable mother, Eve Connor (played by Eva Green) suddenly disappears, leaving Kat and her father (Christopher Meloni) behind to try and make sense of it all. Things only get more confusing as investigators struggle to find any evidence towards the missing woman’s whereabouts and Kat ends up becoming involved with the police detective leading the case (Thomas Jane).
The trailer also depicts specific moments from Kat and her mom’s tumultuous relationship. In the teaser, Eve is unpredictable and mysterious, to say the least. Even Kat’s father admits that he doesn’t believe she ever loved him. Eve’s disappearance only makes the teenager’s feelings about her mother more complex and baffling, with her torn between desperately wanting to find her and feeling almost something like relief that she’s gone.
The role is definitely a marked departure from Woodley’s recent blockbuster, Divergent, and even from both her recent emotionally-driven YA film The Fault in Our Stars and the more indie coming-of-age flick The Spectacular Now. Though the latter explores somewhat similar themes to White Bird in a Blizzard, providing a closer look at a challenging adolescent world, it’s still nowhere near as dark or strange as Akai’s borderline eerie adaptation. It’s also not as risqué. While Woodley did shoot a sex scene for The Spectacular Now, she didn’t go full frontal, as she does in White Bird in a Blizzard.
Woodley herself acknowledged the more adult subject matter in the upcoming film at the movie’s Sundance premiere earlier this year. “This script was so poetic, and dark, and thrilling, and different than anything I’d ever done. I also love the way [Gregg] treated sexuality,” she told Esquire. The actress went on to explain that a character like hers—”not just a female, but a young female chasing an older man for sex, not the older man chasing her”—is rare to see on film these days. “I thought that that was really refreshing. Whether it’s right or wrong — just to see that was cool,” she said.
It’s not surprising that Woodley wouldn’t be intimidated by the role. While most of her most well-known film roles have fallen into the YA category, the actress has always made a point of choosing complicated, honest, and sometimes heartbreaking characters that defy the crippling stereotypes seen in many other recent movies within the genre. With White Bird in a Blizzard, Woodley seems determined to push the boundaries even further. And why not? The actress herself has already admitted that she soon plans on leaving world of teenage movies behind (once all of the films in the Divergent franchise are wrapped) and start focusing on more adult roles. This movie, which has already garnered significant critical praise, seems like just the right stepping stone.
White Bird in a Blizzard hits theaters on October 24.
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