Gregg Araki reimagines the past and the present in a space in between: his own personal space, informed by the influences of film noir, Laura Kasischke's source novel, '50s 'Womens' Pictures' and his own oeuvre. Araki's self-reflexive sensibility works neatly against these conscious references, feeding off itself in the end; White Bird in a Blizzard seems to communicate, in the end, what its language intends it to, its language inspired by the languages of other artistic styles, those styles repurposed for 2014 in Araki's queer communication. It's a smart notion the writer-director has - would that he were smarter than to force it to conform to his simplistic narrative and thematic strictures. We've been down these roads many times before - the dysfunctional suburban family unit, the teen coming-of-age drama, the missing person motif serving as a standard catalyst for catharsis in both - and thus the success of stories such as White Bird's lies primarily in the presentation; Araki has never been much use in this regard, his insistence on the validity of his penchant for scandalous sensationalism coming off as sad and shallow. As stock as White Bird's narrative's key elements may be, there's considerable scope in them for intelligent psychological investigation - Thomas Jane's police officer and Angela Bassett's shrink even blatantly signal toward this - and, given how much time is spent following Shailene Woodley's character, there's no good reason Araki couldn't have abandoned the kitsch for a moment and dug a little deeper. Hell, he could even have done both. The film is, after all, lacking in development, more of a snowflake than a full-on blizzard.