In 1988, when Katrina "Kat" Connors (Shailene Woodley) was 17, her mother, Eve (Eva Green), disappeared without a trace. The story weaves back-and-forth with flashbacks of Eve's past life and the present day.
In the flashbacks, Eve was a wild girl who gradually changed into a domesticated housewife after marrying Brock (Christopher Meloni), an ordinary man who leads an uneventful life. While Kat explores her blossoming sexuality with her handsome but dim-witted neighbor and schoolmate, Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), Eve struggles to deal with aging and quenching her youthful wildness. She tries to be sexy when Brock is away, even luring Phil's attention. After Eve disappears, Kat deals with her abandonment without much issue, occasionally releasing her own wild side, seducing the detective (Thomas Jane) investigating her mother's disappearance. The film then jumps forward three years to the spring of 1991. On a break from college, Kat returns home and seems unfazed to learn that her father is in a relationship with a co-worker.
The detective Kat has been having an affair with informs her that Brock might have killed Eve after catching her cheating. Kat dismisses this theory, just like she did three years ago, but after mentioning the topic to her friends Beth (Gabourey Sidibe) and Mickey (Mark Indelicato) they tell her they suggested this same theory to her and she dismissed them as well. Kat suspects Phil of sleeping with Eve and confronts him the night before she is to return to college, but Phil angrily rebuffs it and tells her that her father knows where her mother is.
Kat begins to unpack Brock's suspiciously locked freezer in their basement, but is stopped when he walks in on her. She questions him about her mother's disappearance, asking if he does in fact know where she is, but he denies having any knowledge of her whereabouts. Believing her father, Kat bids her him goodbye and tearfully boards her flight, returning to college. It is revealed that this was the last time Kat sees her father, as he went out to a bar shortly thereafter and drunkenly admitted to murdering Eve. He is soon arrested and later hangs himself with a sheet in his jail cell, also revealing that he moved Eve's body from the freezer the night before Kat unpacked it.
The film ends with a flashback of Eve's death; she came home from shopping the afternoon of her disappearance to find Brock and Phil in bed together. Phil dashed out of the room and Eve began laughing hysterically at Brock, incredulous, and he responded by wrapping his fingers around her throat, asking her repeatedly to stop, to which she kept on laughing, and he strangled her to death.Shailene Woodley as Katrina "Kat" Connors
Ava Acres as 8-year-old Kat
Eva Green as Eve Connors
Christopher Meloni as Brock Connors
Shiloh Fernandez as Phil
Gabourey Sidibe as Beth
Thomas Jane as Detective Scieziesciez
Angela Bassett as Dr. Thaler
Dale Dickey as Mrs. Hillman
Mark Indelicato as Mickey
Sheryl Lee as May
Jacob Artist as Oliver
The film opened in the United States in a limited release on October 24, 2014 in 4 theaters and grossed $6,302 with an average of $1,576 per theater and ranking #80 at the box office. After 7 weeks in theaters the film earned $33,821 domestically and $344,479 internationally for a total of $378,300.
On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, the film has a score of 57% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Part suburban thriller, part sexual awakening drama – and fully convincing as neither – White Bird in a Blizzard rests a little too heavily on Shailene Woodley's typically superlative work." The film also has a score of 51 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 27 critics indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Pop Insomniacs said, "We've seen versions of this story several times, but never quite mangled together like this before, which is precisely why I was so captivated, uncomfortable and surprised by this movie". Kansas City Star reporter Jocelyn Noveck said, "It all comes down to a doozy of a plot twist, and it's enjoyably shocking. But at the end you're still left shaking your head, feeling lost, wishing there was something tangible to hold on to — perhaps a bit like being trapped in a snow globe... Two stars out of four".
Stereogum ranked the film's 80s pop- and shoegaze-heavy soundtrack as the 16th best soundtrack of 2014.