‘The White Lotus’ Offers Audiences Eerie and Emotional Suspense


“The White Lotus: Official Trailer.” (Courtesy of HBO Max’s YouTube)

By Lee Kedem, Arts Writer


“The White Lotus” writer, director and creator Mike White masterminded an eerie, suspenseful tale of a vacation gone wrong in the first season of the new HBO Max series.

He put together a stellar cast featuring stars like Jennifer Coolidge and Connie Britton while still bringing many fresh faces to the screen.

The story holds a sense of ingenuity compared to other modern television. The cinematography speaks more than words throughout the course of the show; it felt like an art show at times with the still shots that had me on the edge of my seat.

A group of passengers arrive on a boat to a vacation resort called The White Lotus and right away a looming, sinister fog creeps over the passengers as they enter a week of which they are blindly unsuspecting.

All of the families have their own struggles within the larger plot; however, they are seamlessly tied together within a complex story line. At its center, the story is about the characters’ want for freedom within their lives, paired with love from those around them. 

Peeling Open the Emotional Onion

Coolidge’s character, Tanya, speaks of being like an onion with many layers. She usually stays true to her open and emotional self, once she’s become well-acquainted with the other characters, but until then, keeps herself guarded.

This was a theme for her that I felt rang true with the whole series. Many of the first episodes offered character arcs that were interesting and gripping but lacked depth. As the show went on, the layers began to peel and I began to feel more invested in the characters due to their newly shown compassion and empathy.

Paula (Brittany O’Grady) and Olivia’s (Sydney Sweeney) distinctively powerful and tough personas shine in the series. There is a vigorous energy that emerges on the screen when this duo enters, creating a sense of chaos through their mere presence. These were two characters who had tough exteriors with a sentiment of care underneath.  

Music Pushes Forth the Eerie Visuals

I deeply admired the cinematography of “The White Lotus.” It was reminiscent of Ari Aster’s direction in Midsommar, through still shots that invoked a foreboding feeling.

If I were sitting in front of my television watching this show without the audio, I would still be able to grasp the plot through the visuals and unique choices made by cinematographer Ben Kutchins. I would not recommend muting the audio, however, because one of the driving forces of this project was the music.

Cristobal Tapia de Veer created a score that evoked a deep feeling of concern and chaos through his fast-paced beats and sharp chord changes. It allowed the slow shots to exist in a place of eeriness rather than prolonged ennui because it pushed the suspense forward despite having little movement on the screen.

“The White Lotus” took me for a ride full of many twists and turns that I wasn’t able to predict. At the start of the show, White gives the viewers a peek at the final scene without revealing anything, which allows viewers to indulge in guessing games of how events will unfold and keeps them engaged during the hour-long episodes.

HBO Max renewed the series for a second season on Aug. 10, 2021. I was excited to hear this announcement as it was such an interesting show that felt fresh in comparison to many original shows on streaming services these days.

I am curious to see where else this story will go as it felt well wrapped up by the end. Seeing how White, Kutchins and Tapia de Veer created season one, I have no doubt season two will be just as thrilling. The only question is, what secrets and drama will make their way to The White Lotus Hotel next?


[email protected]