Film Review: Blackbird


Director Roger Michell’s drama Blackbird features a stellar cast on excellent form. 

Lily has a terminal illness and is in decline. She gathers her family together for one last weekend before she dies…

Focusing on a terminally ill woman who wishes to take her life before her condition worsens, Blackbird functions as a last supper for protagonist and her family. The film takes place over the course of a weekend, with characters looking with trepidation to the final goodbye with Lily.

A remake of the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart (Christian Torpe writes this screenplay as well), Blackbird focuses on a difficult issue. Euthanasia is illegal where Blackbird is set, and the film deals with the agency of the individual as well as the spectre of mortality. As the weekend progresses, more issues come to light within the family dynamic. Michell explores these themes with a gentle touch. 

Despite the subject matter, Blackbird is not a total tearjerker. There are laughs to be had; Michell effectively balances light and dark. There are messages illuminated by the film, yet it is most interesting when it concentrates on the flawed and all too human characters at play. 

One of the aspects of Blackbird which stands out is the wealth of the family. The beautiful and spacious house, the fine wine, and the expectation of parents all point to a comfortable family. This is a film that does not cut across social strata; there is a privilege for Lily to take her life on exactly her own terms which would not be afforded to everyone in her position. 

Susan Sarandon delivers a solid performance as Lily. It is the supporting cast however, who do the heavy lifting. Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska are excellent as daughters Jennifer and Anna. Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson and Lindsay Duncan are also great. The ensemble cast really does elevate the film.

Blackbird tackles a tricky subject with both sobriety and humour. Roger Michell gets the best out of his cast. 

Blackbird is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

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