Review: Blackbird

From the director of Notting Hill, a terminally ill mother arranges to bring her family together one last time before she dies. Starring: Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Bex Taylor-Klaus and Anson Boon.

The stellar cast list is hard to ignore, having such great actors all working together on one project is more than intriguing but there is a tendency to be wary of too much talent in one feature making things get messy, which is not the case at all here. With the film taking place for the majority at one location and there being no additional actors than that core nine, the story is kept tight and focused, really giving each of those actors the ability to have their moment. This is a genuine ensemble film, each and every actor gets a chance to have a scene that highlights or delves into their character, even Wilson’s character who is intentionally dull, gets a fantastic solo moment that’s a burst of energy. There’s no weak link to this cast, Taylor-Klaus and Boon are less experienced than the rest but they more than hold their own against the heavy hitters. With the film centred around Sarandon’s character, it’s no surprise she does stand out but there’s such a sincerity and rawness to her performance, it feels perfectly suited to her as an actress and it’s so darkly entertaining but heartbreaking to watch, which reflects perfectly the film as a whole.

There’s a huge amount of emotion flowing through the film, death is a hard topic to explore in a way that’s honest and brutal because it’s too easy for films like this to come off as ingenuine but every element comes together to make it perfectly frank about death. The writing is brilliantly dark, there’s so many throw away jokes and sarcastic quips about Lily (Sarandon) dying which are hilarious and littered all throughout the film to keep it’s pace and comedic edge strong, even when things get more dramatic towards the end. It’s extremely unexpected to get such a stylish, funny and well-oiled machine of a film from a director that’s so historically hit and miss, having made the rom-com hall of famer, Notting Hill but also the utterly mediocre My Cousin Rachel and Hyde Park on Hudson. It feels as though everything came together in just the right way to make this film.

It’s one of the classic signs of a good film that the time flies by and though this is a fairly short film in the scheme of things, at 97-minutes, it’s so easy to get drawn into the characters and their family dynamic that before you know it, it’s entered its finale. It has a similar feel to 2011’s Carnage, also starring Kate Winslet, in the way that it doesn’t stray far which keeps you focused on the scene at hand, it doesn’t make any gesture to the outside world, for those 97-minutes, all that exists is that family, their struggle to accept that Lily is going to die and the other issues that brings to light. There’s no real distractions here, everything is smoothly blended together to take nothing away from the story it’s trying to tell, which may seem like a given but so many films don’t achieve this enough, in the succinct way the filmmakers do here, it’s impressive.

Blackbird is suavely macabre, extremely funny and a poignant story of dignity in death that’s particularly relevant to our time. The cast is superb, a fantastic mix of actors who all work very well together and bring to life the sharp, biting script, being hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time is no easy task but this film makes it look effortless.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Available on Digital Download 21 September & DVD 28 September

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