Blackbird is the kind of small movie that provides something much bigger and grander for audiences to take in. On top of that, it also features an enticing and very well-respected ensemble of actors, all of whom have incredible backgrounds of work. With actors including Sam Neil, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, and many others, it’s almost impossible for a film pundit to not check this movie out. Now, with theaters slowly opening back up into the public and with some of the bigger movies (WW84, Dune, Black Widow) getting pushed back even further later in the year or possibly into 2021, theaters are still releasing older movies and smaller movies in order to slowly get more and more people back to the multiplex. Blackbird arrives in theaters and on VOD on September 18th, 2020, and make it your utmost obligation to check out this movie. It is a deeply gut wrenching, powerful, and moving tale about the tragedy that a family has to endure when losing a loved one. The performances are strong, the direction projects very wide and long extended takes, but at its core, Blackbird is a story that will pull the heart strings of a lot of people due to how resonating and moving its subject matter is.
Blackbird, based off the Danish film Silent Heart, tells the story of a family coming together for one final weekend with their matriarch. The mother, Lily (Susan Sarandon), is dying of a terminal illness and, rather than waiting for it get worse for her and the rest of her family, Lily makes the decision to end it the way that only she wants it to go. So, she gathers her entire family over for Thanksgiving dinner before she says goodbye forever.
Arguably, the strongest quality that Blackbird has going for it are the performances from the entire ensemble. It’s hard to pick which one might be the favorite, but there’d be no fault in picking one. However, the performance from Susan Sarandon (Bull Durham) is beautiful, poetic, and full of grace. Sarandon is already a very beloved actress, being nominated for an Oscar on multiple occasions, but her portrayal as a dying grandmother is one of the gifted and transparent aspects of this entire movie. Yes, it is tragic knowing that with each passing minute, we’re getting closer and closer to her loss, but up until that moment, we spend so much time learning about her relationships with the rest of her family, both in the present and past tense. Sarandon really turns out another impeccable and resounding performance in this movie, one that will continue to keep her legacy afloat. Sarandon might be the scene stealer, but it’s no disregard to the rest of the talent that Blackbird has in store. Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who might be one of the best actresses of all time, is just wonderful in this movie. She shares a great and believable set chemistry with Rain Wilson (The Office) but, more importantly, she can really stand toe-to-toe with an esteemed actress like Susan Sarandon or even a treasured and undervalued actor like Sam Neil (Jurassic Park). Besides Sarandon, Kate Winslet beautifully dominates the screen every time she speaks or pops up.
Directed by Roger Michell, who has done a whole lot of other movies but one’s that may not stick out as much, has crafted a pain-staking journey about losing a loved one when there’s not much else you can do. That’s probably one of the best attributes that Blackbird has going for it, at the end of the day. The story and narrative are filled with so much profundity, resonance, and grace that, despite its uncomfortable and rough portions, it almost feels that was the intention of telling this story. Scenes of characters fighting, cursing, and revealing secrets that no one knew about, are stressful and make you feel a bit agonized, but at the same time, it almost feels that that’s what Roger Michell was trying to express. He wanted to show a family that, in fact, loves each other through and through, but he beautifully exemplifies the uncomfortable factors that come within an average family. One thing he does to express these powerful moments is how he sets up these sequences. Blackbird is filled with a handful of one shot and extended takes in order for the audience to fully digest each and every moving part. Now, a one shot can be a gimmick unless it’s used organically and appropriately. In the case of Blackbird, it’s one of the most stunning and effective filmmaking techniques offered. Almost every dialogue exchange lets you fully grasp the entire scene and it fully immerses you in the moment because of how expanded the shots are.
The audience for the film may be smaller now as compared to its potential audience in pre-pandemic times, but Blackbird doesn’t need to be that huge to be qualified as a success. That being said, Blackbird is a ravishingly and deeply profound movie that will indeed shed some tears. The performances are all Oscar-worthy, the storytelling is full of sincerity and elegance, but, most of all, the film presents a resounding tale that will speak volumes to how relatable it is. It’s guaranteed to leave an impact on you, and it beg the question “well, what would I do?”
In select theaters and on VOD September 18th, 2020.
For more information on Blackbird, head to the official Screen Media website.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.