Film Review: Blackbird

STUDIO: Screen Media | DIRECTOR: Roger Michell | CAST: Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Mia Wasikowska, Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan
RELEASE DATE: Sept. 18, 2020
SPECS: R | 97 min. | Drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 3Dishes.jpg (40×13)

The drama Blackbird is the latest example of a subpar adaptation of very good foreign language films, joining the recent Downhill, a remake of Sweden’s Force Majeure, and The Upside, which based on The Intouchables from France. Hopefully, Parasite’s recent Best Picture win will break this cycle. But for now, we have Blackbird, an American re-do of the Bille August’s wonderful 2014 Danish movie Silent Heart.

Lily (Susan Sarandon, The Meddler) is ready to end her long battle with ALS  on her own terms and wants to have one final weekend with her loved ones at their picturesque beach house. Along with her husband Paul (Sam Neill, Thor: Ragnarok), Lilly summons her lifelong friend (Lindsay Duncan, Birdman) and daughters Jennifer (Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel) and Anna (Mia Wasikowska, Alice Through the Looking Glass) who attend with their respected partners (The Office‘s Rainn Wilson and Bex Taylor-Klaus of 13 Reasons Why). The mood becomes strained when unresolved family issues bubble up to the surface and Jennifer and Anna begin to second guess their mother’s plan to end her life.

Though screenwriter Christian Torp adapted his own award-winning script Silent Heart script for Blackbird, the film fails to deliver the rich texture, character and emotion of the original. The direction from Roger Michell doesn’t do anything to have us believe that all these characters are comfortable enough to interact like an actual family (Michell delivered more familial feeling in Notting Hill and Le Week-end, to name two). The overall feel here is restraint wrapped in a veneer of over-stylization, with multiple wide-frame shots distancing the audience from the action and failing to create the intimacy needed for such a dramatic story.

In a role that she could do sleepwalking, Sarandon is effective headlining a cast of well known, notably undiverse, actors. But Michell doesn’t effectively build a believable emotional connection between the characters, so the climatic family fight and subsequent secret revel lacks tension and empathy.

Editor Kristina Hetherington (Christopher Robin) does a seamless job, especially with a montage during a charades game and weighty dinner scene, and cinematographer Mike Eley (United 93) nicely captures the architectural beauty of the sprawling house (set in never-identified bucolic setting in the Northeast), which seems to play a supporting role.

Blackbird is a decent film but if you’re looking for more substantive experience, backtrack several years and check out Silent Heart.

Blackbird releases in theaters and On Demand September 18, 2020.

Watch Blackbird

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at