White Noise. (L to R) Sam Nivola as Heinrich, Adam Driver as Jack, May Nivola as Steffie, Greta Gerwig as Babette, Dean Moore/Henry Moore as Wilder and Raffey Cassidy as Denise in White Noise. Cr. Wilson Webb/Netflix © 2022

White Noise review

White Noise review

London Film Festival Gala Review: White Noise. By Adam Davidson

Noah Baumbach grapples with universal themes of death, love and family in the surreal dark comedy White Noise, which premiered last week at the BFI London Film Festival in the Headline Gala.

Based on the ‘unfilmable’ cult classic novel by Don DeLillo, Baumbach’s adaptation centres around Jack Gladney (Adam Driver), a four-times married college professor who is one of the leading figures in Hitler studies at College-on-the-Hill. He lives a comfortable life in suburbia with his wife Bebette (Greta Gerwig) and their four children until a disastrous train accident casts chemical waste over his town in what is eventually called ‘the Airborne Toxic Event.’

That is just the tip of the iceberg as he notices his wife is secretly taking a mysterious tablet called Dylar and he has to tackle an existential crisis of his own.

Baumbach’s adaptation is a strangely surreal and beautiful movie which lingers on the mind long after leaving the cinema. There is so much going on that it becomes almost overwhelming, although purposely so. At times, it felt like a dark version of Monty Python. Many of the themes raised don’t actually lead anywhere as the focus is shifted to the next looming disaster. It was as if Baumbach was saying ‘and now for something completely different.’

This is not a negative, especially for the type of movie White Noise strives to be. There is a beauty in its chaos. The genre-bending movie is a dark comedy, drama, horror/ supernatural and disaster all in one as it tackles heavy themes of the fear of death, hysteria and the mundanity of suburbia and the nuclear family.

Despite all of these dark and poignant themes it remains light and comedic in a subtle and clever way typical of Baumbach’s work that, for the most part, doesn’t detract from the narrative.

The movie is visually stunning as the cinematography perfectly matches the differing tone of each scene, from the domestic bliss of suburbia, symbolised by the safety of the supermarket, to the haunting spectre of inevitable death.

Driver is effortlessly funny as the anti-hero Jack. The Academy Award nominee’s dry humour is the perfect match for a Baumbach movie as he teeters between insanity and serenity. Gerwig, as a mother that is struggling to come to terms with the looming prospect of death, has similar subtlety.

Adapting a cult classic novel to the big screen is never easy, especially one considered ‘unfilmable’ like Don Dellio’s White Noise. However, Baumbach has done a brilliant job in bringing his own humour and style to the story but remaining true to the original.


In cinemas November 25, on Netflix globally December 30.

Photo credit: Cr: Wilson Webb/NETFLIX © 2022.