director: roger michell (notting hill, venus)
starring: Susan sarandon, sam neill, kate winslet and rainn wilson
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A terminally ill mother arranges to bring her family together one last time before she dies.
As euthanasia increasingly becomes legal in states and countries around the world, its a debate that is being had not only in the halls of power but in popular culture as well. Blackbird continues the cultural conversation that films such as Me Before You and Supernova began but it takes a slightly different route than others have taken. The stellar ensemble cast of Blackbird tenderly and tremendously explore the topic of euthanasia on the broad canvas of extended family with all of its love, dysfunction, secrets and bemusing moments.
Lily, a spirited woman in her late 60s, is preparing for a weekend with her husband, Paul, and their visiting children.
As the weekend continues, old wounds come to the surface, driving some family members apart and others together. With both daughters increasingly conflicted about their mother’s plan, Lily’s hopes of a peaceful farewell appear to be under threat.
You’ve never seen a family gathering quite like this before. Lily’s euthanasia decision hangs over the proceedings and is the driving force of not only relationship conflicts but also some of their resolutions.
That’s not to say that it's used merely as a plot device as the ramifications of her decision and the debate on both sides of the argument are sensitively and keenly presented and teased out. Whatever side you sit on in regards to this issue you can be assured that ‘your side’ is presented well.
The narrative also allows sufficient space and time for each character to be developed and fleshed out and this is what lies at the heart of what makes Blackbird such a triumph. This feels like a real family get together with all of its love, history, secrets and dysfunction. It also beautifully and brilliant captures the mundane, odd and bemusing moments as well. Blackbird is a superb observational piece of family dynamics.
This all rests on casting and in Blackbird we are served by a terrific ensemble cast. Sarandon exudes power in spite of her illness, Neill solidity in his grief, Winslet captures the banality of a conservative middle class mother and Wilson portrays the bland and embarrassingly odd middle aged father with ease. This ensemble cast is hands down worth the price of admission alone.
The stellar ensemble cast of Blackbird tenderly and tremendously explore the topic of euthanasia on the broad canvas of extended family with all of its love, dysfunction, secrets and bemusing moments.