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“Blackbird” Mostly Wastes A Wonderful Cast

A great cast can paper over a lot of issues. Watching talented actors and actresses at work is part of the main charm of the gift that is cinema. However, even the best thespians can’t make up for a script that just doesn’t give them much to do. Likewise with bland direction. Despite an A-list cast, the remake Blackbird is thoroughly mediocre, wasting the performers at its center. Aside from occasional sparks of livelihood, credited to the ladies and gentlemen on the screen, there’s not a whole lot to grab on to. The film just sort of lays there, never coming to life in the way one would hope for.

The movie is a family drama, remade from the 2014 Danish effort Silent Heart. Lily (Susan Sarandon) and Paul (Sam Neill) clearly have a loving relationship, though one taking on a new dimension due to Lily’s terminal illness. No longer willing to continue her long battle with ALS, the couple summons their family to their beach house to say goodbye. Wanting her children and their loved ones to surround her for a weekend, all should be tender. However, while the plan is to have a loving weekend, complete with a number of final holiday traditions, the mood becomes strained. Not only do daughters Jennifer (Kate Winslet) and Anna (Mia Wasikowska) have issues with each other, unresolved problems once again surface between each of them and Lily, herself. With time running out, can they all work out their differences and support the matriarch’s decision to end her life with dignity? Roger Michell directs a screenplay by Christian Torpe, with cinematography from Mike Eley, as well as a score by Peter Gregson. Supporting players here include Lindsay Duncan and Rainn Wilson, as well as Anson Boon and Bex Taylor-Klaus.

When you see who is in this film, you’re not wrong to expect better. Any flick with a cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Mia Wasikowska, and Kate Winslet should keep your attention in a more thorough way. Likewise other cast members like Sam Neill and Rainn Wilson, all of whom could shine with better material. Here, however, the writing is middling and the drama is overly forced, so you constantly wind up seeing the strings being pulled. A dinner scene involving the passing of a joint is one of the only moments that doesn’t seem overly contrived. Then, when the third act plot developments kick in, everyone suffers even more.

Blackbird isn’t bad, it’s just far too middling for its own good. The cliches of this family drama are all ones that we’ve seen before, and done better, too. What’s most frustrating is that director Roger Michell and writer Christian Torpe clearly want to make an affecting right to die picture. Presumably, the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart was more successful. Here, Michell and Torpe, despite such a top-notch cast, never find a way to rise about the cliched nature of the premise. The issue is important, it’s just simply not handled particularly well. Whatever passion was behind it all is lost in the translation. Good intentions can only go so far.

Now playing, Blackbird is a massive disappointment. In large part, that disappointment is due to the potential that the cast brought to this. From Michell in the director’s chair on down to the actors and actresses, this could have been Oscar bait. Instead, it’s wildly forgettable. Simply put, everyone on screen here deserved better than this. A far cry from Academy Award worthy fare, it’s just likely to come and go in short order.

Blackbird is available to watch now.

(Photos courtesy of Screen Media Films)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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