Directed by: #LauraMac
Written by: #LauraMac
Doves are often thought to be the bringers of hope, but who would have thought that you could have put pigeons into the mix too? While Laura Mac’s pigeon in When Birds Fly doesn’t bring an olive branch back but a note instead, Mac demonstrates how a domestic pigeon can be a beacon of hope and recovery as well.
Thomas (Andy John Bradford) is a farmer and pigeon fancier in rural Northern Ireland. The bills are creeping up, dishes and glasses are left in the sink, and empty spirit bottles roll around on the floor. Lonely and depressed, there isn’t much Thomas wants to live for. His wife has left him, and Thomas suffers as he remembers things that happened a long time ago. His gossipy neighbour, Dorothy (Cathy Brennan-Bradley), isn’t as helpful as she’d like to think. Thomas contemplates taking his life, but his prize pigeon Trudy flies into the room with a note tied to her leg and interrupts him. The letter is a cry for help, and Thomas becomes determined to solve the mystery.
Thomas dwells on the painful moments in his past, and really, he’s still living in those old moments. Old newspaper cuttings and photos surround him. Director of Photography, Austen Irwin decided to entomb his shots in sepia, cleverly representing a man so unable to move on from his personal history. Actor Andy John Bradford gives an arresting performance as a man rendered so powerless by his depression, and Bradford invites you to understand and empathise with Thomas within minutes.
Thomas struggles with suicidal thoughts, depression and alcoholism. There are money issues too. There are themes of child abduction, child murder and marriage breakdown. For a piece with so many sombre themes, When Birds Fly goes in a bizarre direction. As it becomes crystal clear that there’s a mystery needing to be solved, Thomas and Dorothy morph into characters from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. The film becomes strangely saccharine as if it has forgotten Thomas’s initial state of mind. The story is even resolved with a cheerful Blyton-esque ending, complete with a home-cooked pie.
While the initial exploration of Thomas’s deep depression and his past is done well, the latter half of Where Birds Fly undercuts the severity and the darkness of those themes. Hope really can come from anywhere, as Laura Mac’s film suggests, but a sickly sweet ending isn’t needed to understand that things can be good again.