Directed by: Peter Kosminsky
Written by:Mary Agnes Donoghue
Starring: Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, Billy Connolly, Patrick Fugit
Released: June 19, 2003
Grade: A-

Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn.  All three of these accomplished starlets have been overshadowed by an incredible performance from newcomer Alison Lohman.  In the leading role, Lohman blossoms and whether you can or cannot relate to her position, you will certainly feel for her.

Barely a teenager, Astrid’s (Lohman) life is forever changed when her mother, Ingrid (Pfeiffer) is found guilty of murdering her boyfriend.  Importantly, the film doesn’t dwell on the details of this event.  There’s no drawn out court trial or doubt as to her guilt.  Ingrid is getting the punishment that she deserves.

With no father to care for her, Astrid now finds herself bouncing from foster home to foster home.  It’s a difficult time for an impressionable young lady and she changes very much as a person through the experience.  Her most difficult obstacle though seems to be her mother.  Ingrid was always a controlling mother and is still trying to keep this role from behind bars.  She cannot deal with the fact Astrid has a new “mother” and poisons her mind with unnecessary thoughts.

Robin Wright Penn and Renee Zellweger play two of Astrid’s foster mothers and both meet different fates.  The focus is though on Astrid and her development as a person as a result of the many tragedies that plague her.  You may think it has the makings of a sappy soap opera but don’t let your judgement be clouded in this regard.  It’s a well thought out story that has been adapted from the popular novel by Janet Fitch.  For some, the later stages will bring a tear to the eye.

Michelle Pfeiffer picked up a few award nominations along the way but as I emphasised at the very beginning of this review, don’t overlook Alison Lohman.  White Oleander should open many doors for her and with the right choices, she’ll be a star of the future.