Directed by: #RogerMichell
Written by: #ChristianTorpe
Based on the Danish-language film (Silent Heart) from, and written by, Christian Torpe comes Director Roger Michell's Anglo-American remake, Blackbird. You likely know the story already: an ailing matriarch invites her fractured family around to stay for one last weekend of joy and festivities before she plans to end her life through euthanasia. But, as is so often the case in films like this, everyone's a long way from even pretending to play happy families.
Susan Sarandon stars as Lily, the matriarchal head of the family unit, while Sam Neill puts in a career-high as Paul, Lily's husband, who proceeds with a stoic, removed air about his wife's illness and impending self-death. Kate Winslet's Jennifer is the first to arrive, early, along with husband Michael (Rainn Wilson) and son Johnathan (Anson Boon). Straight-laced and proud, Jennifer is the polar opposite to her younger sister, Anna (Mia Wasikowska); a flighty young woman who traipses in late, "looking like shit", with girlfriend Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus) in tow. And completing the "family unit" is Liz (Lindsay Duncan), Lily's oldest and dearest friend.
As you can probably tell, the film's main attraction is its star-studded cast. A sea of riveting performances are what awaits the viewer, and Torpe's well-written, character-establishing (and building) dialogue make these people come alive and feel genuine—even if some of their actions aren't. Indeed, Michell relies heavily on the strength of his actors to deliver the emotional clout the movie promises. There's no denying the cast is up to the task, but it's still an issue, as it leaves other aspects of the film feeling like an afterthought.
The plot mechanics are hackneyed and unoriginal, while Peter Gregson's score feels generic and uninspired. Two crucial aspects of the film that haven't had the attention they needed due to too much time spent managing a cast capable enough of driving itself. Mike Ely's crystalline visuals, though, are an absolute delight, and effortlessly reflect the beauty and tragedy of both life and death.
It's unoriginal, and it's certainly not perfect, but this is a beautiful piece of filmmaking about the celebration of life, love and family, rather than the sadness of death and loss. And it brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.