On the surface, Whitewash and The Pretty One have little in common. The first is an intimate character-driven narrative that stars Thomas Haden Church as an oft-inebriated widower who puts himself through hell in the depths of Canada's cruel and bitterly cold forests. The latter is a plucky romantic comedy in which Zoe Kazan plays identical twins. But both are the first feature helmed by their respective directors, as well as wildly entertaining and mesmerizing dark comedies with a fatal automobile crash as a catalyst in each.

Commercial director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais took the leap to narrative features with a script he co-wrote with Marc Tulin. Whitewash begins with the familiar growl of Thomas Haden Church delivering a cryptic and defensive message. Then we're introduced to Bruce (Church) as he barrels around empty, snow-caked streets in his snowplow. Another man wanders into the middle of the road and--bam! Realizing he's killed this ill-fated pedestrian, Bruce wordlessly begins to cover his tracks. Beginning with this murder of an unknown man by a so far unnamed protagonist, Whitewash throws its audience headlong into a mystery that unfolds in flashbacks as Bruce flees to the woods to hideout and regroup.

There are echoes of Cast Away as Bruce's sanity becomes unmoored by gnawing remorse and total isolation. While on paper this might seem a lifeless premise, Whitewash is riveting thanks to the incredible and sharply funny performance of Church. Bruce is a man with a mind for survival, but he's not bright. So his awkwardly practicing a defense to imaginary policemen or trying to explain his presence to a freaked out vacationing family are great opportunities for talented comedian Church, who finds a nice balance of emotional depth and dopiness in Bruce.

With only a handful of supporting players who get little more than a few minutes of screen time, Church is practically in a one-man show, or--considering the grueling physicality of interacting with relentless snow and cold--a one-man endurance act. And he absolutely nails it. In Whitewash, Church is a revelation, exposing insights about loss, loneliness and guilt all while delivering hard-won laughs.

You can check out the trailer below. But be warned, it contains spoilers:

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