If you take a look over the careers of Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet you will quickly see that both have made a career out of starring in films that will bring tears to your eyes. Whether it’s Lorenzo’s Oil or Dead Man Walking for Sarandon, or Little Children or Titanic for Winslet, both have a body of work meant to bring emotions out of you, so it’s no surprise that their first film together would be more of the same.
Blackbird follows the story of Lily (Sarandon) and her family over the course of Thanksgiving weekend. Lily has a terminal illness (ALS) that is slowly taking away her control of her body, and instead of waiting for it to completely cripple her, she’s decided to take her own life. She’s told her family of her decision, and has invited them all together for one last get together, and after they leave she plans on moving forward with her plan. The only problem is not everyone agrees with her plan, and as the time comes closer to the end, Lily’s daughters have a harder time dealing with it, and old conflicts between the family begin to reappear.
There are scenes in Blackbird that in any other film would seem mundane, and evoke no emotion. Scenes such as a family sitting around the table eating their Thanksgiving dinner, talking about their lives and their dreams as they draw closer to one another after a time spent apart. In this film though, as the scene pushes onward, you start to get a strong feeling that this will be the last time they will be able to have this sort of a meal. It’s meant to be a happy scene, but in the end it becomes sad. You can’t help but feel a mix of emotions, and a large part of it is because of Sarandon’s incredible range. You can feel her character’s love and strength, and above all her determination to see her plan through to the end. You also feel her stubbornness however, which allows you to feel the pain her two daughters are feeling as well, not to mention the confusion of her son-in-law who is trying everything he can get get his family through the very difficult weekend. While the acting of Blackbird is spectacular in most cases, the characters themselves are pretty two-dimensional. Winslet does everything she can for her character, but in the end she’s just your typical busy-body who meddles in everything. Mia Wasikowska plays the daughter who feels like she hasn’t gotten the attention she deserves, and is the self-righteous one who goes out of her way to try to make everyone feel as miserable as she is. Sam Neil plays his character as well as he can, but in the end the character is just too bland to stand out and doesn’t seem to react the way he should. None of these character issues are the fault of the actors however. The only actor who seems out of place is Rainn Wilson, who doesn’t quite know if he wants to play the role comedically or seriously. He just seems lost for most of the film.
Blackbird is a remake of the Danish film Silent Heart, and like the original, it’s not a film you really want to overthink. If you do, you might find the premise silly and unrealistic, but if you take it at face value and suspend your disbelief you will more than likely enjoy it. It will play with your emotions and tears will come, and you will leave the theater wondering what you would do if this happened to you.
By: Roderick Thedorff