Sam Rivman ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
White Rabbit is the chilling story of Harlon (Nick Krause), a mentally disturbed boy who goes off the deep end after years of mistreatment. The film is deep, dark, and leaves the audience cringing as if watching a time bomb tick down second by second. There were a few bumps along the road, but as a whole, White Rabbit pushes a powerful message and is an excellent film.
Harlon begins to hear voices emanating from his comic books. Despite his parents noticing that Harlon is clearly speaking to himself, they fail to get him the psychiatric help that he so desperately needs. Because Harlon is left isolated in his own sick thoughts, he eventually snaps and plans to shoot up his high school (albeit the very end of the film leaves whether he does ambiguous). This makes White Rabbit somewhat uncomfortable to watch, considering the shocking and atrocious number of recent shootings in the United States. The ambiguity of the ending was clearly to avoid too much stigma regarding the sensitive topic, and was perhaps too much of an “easy way out” for the producers.
Despite not fitting quite right with the rest of the film, the ambiguous ending does leave the audience with a very important message to take away: Harlon’s troubles could have been avoided had he been given support and medication to help deal with the voices in his head. The film reveals exactly what could happen when people aren’t treated with any respect, and, in that sense, the writers give the audience a learning experience in addition to a riveting story.
Krause’s performance is haunting because he conveys just as much with his eyes as he does with his words. As he falls deeper and deeper into his psychosis, his physical appearance decays and his facial expressions get progressively darker. White Rabbit also contains excellent performances by Sam Trammell, who plays Harlon’s father Darrell, and Britt Robertson, who plays Harlon’s love interest Julie. Trammell (True Blood) proves his acting range by running with the opportunity to play a much harsher and aggressive character here. Darrell proves to be an extremely dynamic character, transforming from an emotionally abusive drug user into a born again Christian.
Trammell harnesses that duality and creates a compelling character that is truly his own. Robertson (The Secret Circle) plays an equally dynamic and praise-worthy character. Initially a mentally unsound druggie, Julie captures Harlon’s attention and heart. She later checks herself into a mental institution and completely cleans up her act. Robertson is almost unrecognizable in both appearances, but she plays both aspects of Julie with conviction. Unfortunately, Julie and Darrell were a bit too similar and almost formulaic in terms of character development and transition, but Trammell and Robertson play the roles with enough prowess to make it a non-issue.
Perhaps the icing on the cake for White Rabbit is the plot twist involving Harlon’s best and only friend Steve (Ryan Lee). A few nights after Steve’s parents don’t allow him to keep a dog, Harlon hears that there are police on Steve’s street and rushes over to what is seemingly a false alarm. Steve is outside and tells Harlon that there is nothing to worry about. However (and here come the spoilers), it is later revealed that Steve had actually killed himself that night, and Harlon’s mind had merely been projecting an already deceased Steve. The twist comes truly as a surprise, and is a heart wrenching moment that brings Harlon’s sickness to a crescendo.
White Rabbit tastefully approaches a very sensitive topic, and in doing so, sheds light on a subject that Americans are scared to face. It is a film that sinks down deep into the bones of the audience, and leaves them having truly felt Harlon’s pain and anguish. White Rabbit, in its essence, is a work of art, and is a film that should not be overlooked.
Overall Grade: B+