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White Oleander


White Oleander


5 out of 5 stars Poisonous Flowers, Poisoned Lives

In an ideal world, one imagines humans being free to love and never feeling rejected or having to reject. A world where loneliness doesn’t exist and people open their hearts to allow love to flow freely through the world.

Perhaps as human beings we can never reach this higher plane of existence since we struggle so much with the idea of unconditional love. Love is at times taken away at the first instance of another’s rejection. To give love at times means to accept hurt or to be hurt by those you try to love in an unconditional way.

This movie really captured my attention from beginning to end. You can feel everything the characters experience. That is so rare these days. You can feel the hate, the love, the fear, the loneliness, the rejection, the acceptance.

There is an element of dark beauty in this sometimes emotionally intense drama adapted from Janet Fitch's bestseller (an Oprah's Book Club selection).

There are elements in this movie which seem to be mocking religious beliefs, however if you look deeply into the movie and see the true meaning, what I think the movie is saying is: “It is more important to live out your beliefs and do good to others, than to say you believe in God/Jesus and then to treat others with disrespect.” Or at least the main message is that you should live what you believe.

At first, I thought this was going to be another “bash religion” movie, and I was pleasantly surprised at the end.

Some of the main themes include the concepts of loneliness and making mistakes. Astrid Magnussen (Alison Lohman who is a great actress and I can’t wait to see her in other films) is not only looking for a father figure in her life, she has had to deal with a less-than-perfect foster care system where she becomes “Nobody’s” child. This is a world where more than 450,000 children are living in a foster care situation. She is a victim of her own desire to be loved by a father and sees loving older men (her foster “father”) as a way to obtain love. She is therefore the victim of sexual abuse.

Astrid’s mother, Ingrid Magnussen (Michelle Pfeiffer), rejects religion and believes her daughter must fight the urge to accept love because she feels loneliness. She thinks to survive, you must fight and destroy. So, when the man in her life cheats on her, she kills him with the poison of oleander flowers in a fit of jealousy. She destroys not only her life, but her daughters life.

Once her mother is in prison, Astrid must struggle to survive in various Los Angeles foster homes. She encounters a “not so” born-again Christian (not exactly an example of Christ shall we say), a suicidal housewife and a Russian business woman. Only the housewife really seems to give Astrid what she longs for: “A mother who cares about her and shows her the meaning of love.”

But as the story unfolds, we see that time and time again, it is the men in this story who seem to be making the lives of the women more difficult. When the housewife (Renée Zellweger) has to chose between keeping Astrid or sending her back to save her marriage, she hurts more people than just herself to keep a man who she has already lost.

Not only does Astrid have to live in these disharmonious households, she is the victim her own beauty and seems to be living in a world where women hate her.

At a young age, she has to deal with neglect, desertion and brutality. All she wants to find is acceptance, self-worth, a sense of security and love.

Throughout the time her mother is in prison, they write letters to each other. Astrid must decide if she will follow her mother’s advice or the deepest desires of her heart.

A poetic start, a tragic story about the loneliness of the human condition and a great ending. This is about survival and about finding love.

Beautiful in a painful way.

~The Rebecca Review 



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