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White Oleander (2002)



Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 133
Fresh: 93 | Rotten: 40

Strong performances by the lead actresses make White Oleander a compelling female melodrama.


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Critic Reviews: 33
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 12

Strong performances by the lead actresses make White Oleander a compelling female melodrama.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 50,472

My Rating

Movie Info

A drama which chronicles the life of Astrid, a young teenager who journeys through a series of foster homes after her mother goes to prison for committing a crime of passion. Set adrift in the world, Astrid struggles to become her own person while coming to terms with the challenges of living life on her own.



Mary Agnes Donoghue

Mar 11, 2003


Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (146) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (93) | Rotten (40) | DVD (22)

A smart, compelling drama.

October 19, 2002 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is worth seeing for its honest heart and for the magnificent acting.

October 14, 2002 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though it flirts with bathos and pathos and the further Oprahfication of the world as we know it, it still cuts all the way down to broken bone.

October 11, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A movie that wafts in and out of clarity like a wavering transmission.

October 11, 2002 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Much of the pleasure to be had in White Oleander is in watching its female stars revel in their screen time.

October 11, 2002 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What should have been a guaranteed weepie is never truly moving.

October 11, 2002 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Upsetting and dark, for older than PG-13.

December 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A truly involving, well-written and entertaining film supported by excellent performances...

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Distinguishing it from Oxygen channel territory is its surprisingly hard edge.

December 30, 2008 Full Review Source:

Lohman appears in nearly every scene and gives an assured, sympathetic performance as Astrid.

June 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

The daughter's story is often haunting, but Peter Kosminsky's film . . . comes unglued because the mother is the stock psychotic villainess of countless Hollywood films.

December 1, 2003
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

An emotionally powerful story with some electrifying performances.

August 29, 2003 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Almost turns human misfortune into a costume parade.

June 29, 2003 Full Review Source: Sunday Times (Australia)
Sunday Times (Australia)

Like the titular flower of its title, "White Oleander", will sting your senses and turn you cerulean with feeling as its Petals of gorgeousness, and stems of the finest celluloid work its way into your system.

May 12, 2003 | Comment (1)

Although its plot suffers from some plausibility issues, it shows that Kosminsky's style is certainly evolving into something worth attention.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

This soapy gem can be overlooked by the star-studded element that enhances the feminine message of misplaced empowerment. White Oleander is a cinematic flower that could use some more blooming but the scent is still pleasing enough to acknowledge

January 13, 2003 Full Review Source:

No matter how restrained the direction or unsentimental the performances ... there is no escaping the semi-trashy but oh-so-life- affirming ring of the plot.

January 8, 2003 Full Review Source: Dallas Observer
Dallas Observer

If the screen version of White Oleander was an Olympic event, it's hard to tell which of the movie's four actresses would end up winning the gold.

November 20, 2002
Creative Loafing

Pfeiffer is not an actress with much sense of mystery, so it's hard to swallow her dangerous mommy-mystique shtick.

November 19, 2002 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

The picture benefits greatly from a superb cast and merciless editing -it churns forward, jumping and jolting along, memorably echoing the upheavals in Astrid's life.

November 11, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Experience
Film Experience

'Synthetic' is the best description of this well-meaning, beautifully produced film that sacrifices its promise for a high-powered star pedigree.

October 25, 2002 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

A broad, melodramatic estrogen opera that's pretty toxic in its own right.

October 24, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Feng-shuied into fabricated exactness at the expense of an organic authenticity.

October 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

One of those films that has us choking back a derisive howl at all its platitudes about 'honesty' - because an honest moment is impossible to find.

October 19, 2002
Tyler Morning Telegraph (Texas)

A little cleaned up and oversimplified. However, especially when it's focusing on the core mother-daughter relationship and L.A.'s foster mis-care system, the film is good, strong stuff.

October 18, 2002 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Daily News

Audience Reviews for White Oleander

On a rewatch, not quite as good as I remembered, but still liked it.
Interesting story about a poisonous mother and the harm caused to her teenage daughter, even while she's in prison after murdering an ex boyfriend for rejecting her.
The movie follows Astrid as she is shunted from foster home to foster home, yet still unable to break away totally from her mother who "would rather see her in the worst type of foster hell" than living with a decent foster mother.
August 9, 2014

Super Reviewer

White Oleander covers some interesting and actually rather ordinary issues through extraordinary situations. Michelle Pfeiffer's character is very well written and she does the role justice, it's just a shame the other characters are all either exaggerated or cliched. The idea that a Mother can bring up her daughter while in prison is cleverly realised in the dialogue but some of the scenarios are so ludicrous, it spoils a lot of the good work. It has to be said too that if you are adverse to bad wigs as I am, then you may want to prepare yourself for pure disbelief. Much better than anticipated but the realism is a little too shaky to be taken too seriously. Watch for Michelle Pfeiffer's great performance.
June 19, 2014

Super Reviewer

Really good and interesting story with brilliant performances.
September 13, 2011

Super Reviewer

Alison Lohman is not, in my opinion, the best choice for a protagonist for this one, but Michelle Pfeiffer's never blinking reptile eyes are just about perfect. The story is rather lackluster, but the acting power can be quite extraordinary when handled correctly.
April 29, 2011

Super Reviewer

Movies Like White Oleander

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