Blackbird Image

Blackbird

By Andy Howell | September 12, 2019

In Blackbird, a matriarch has a terminal illness, which is going to kill her soon. She calls together the family, including her husband, best friend, two daughters, and their families, for one last weekend together before she plans to end her own life.  Many in the family don’t get along, and not all are on board with the plan.

Lily (Susan Sarandon) is starting to lose ability in her arms and legs, so she wants to take her own life while she still has the cognitive and physical ability to do so.  Her husband, Paul (Sam Neill) is on board, and he’s a doctor, so he can help guide the process, even though it is illegal.  Even though one of the daughters, Jennifer (Kate Winslet) is a control freak, she’s onboard, along with her husband Michael (Rainn Wilson), and their son, Jonathan (Anson Boon). The other daughter, Anna (Mia Wasikowska), isn’t.  She’s facing a personal crisis of her own, but she brings her on-again, off-again partner Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus) for solidarity.  A family friend Liz (Lindsay Duncan) rounds out the party, though her closeness to the parents unsettles some of the children.  As the agreed-upon day of death gets closer, nerves fray, tensions mount, and all the unfinished business in the lifetime of a family comes to the fore. 

A matriarch has a terminal illness. She calls together the family…for one last weekend together before she plans to end her own life.

Blackbird is tailor-made for Oscar season – get together an amazing cast, tackle a serious subject, and let the tears fly!  The problem in films like these is that they can be polished into such script and editing perfection and efficiency, that they lose the ability to seem natural, and instead seem like a series of writers’ tricks to maximize drama.  That problem plagues Blackbird, thanks to a just-so script by a Danish writer mainly known for TV, Christian Torpe, and direction from Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Hyde Park on Hudson).  Characters don’t behave like normal humans, who would probably respect someone’s dying wishes and act with nothing but compassion until their loved one has departed, so much as chaotic puppets at the hands of a screenwriter trying to push the plot forward.  Scenes where people would just speak to each other to calmly resolve differences don’t happen, and instead, people pair off one by one to soliloquy at each other until the tears flow.  Every character seems neatly designed to have a point of view to debate the idea of assisted suicide fully. 

Blackbird (2019)

Directed: Roger Michell

Written: Christian Torpe

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Anson Boon, Bex Taylor-Klaus, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Blackbird Image

"…has top-notch acting and manages to be moving nonetheless."

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