By Alex Purnell. Set against clinically white backdrops of a contemporary house out in the sticks, Blackbird’s topic of death is tragic yet beautiful. A remake of Billie August’s Silent Heart (2014), Blackbird tells the story of an emotional reunion centred around a splintered family and a terminally ill grandmother who is preparing her last Christmas with her loved ones before ending her life.
It’s a powerful premise, bringing up the moral and ethical issues of planned suicide and the right to die. This is at the forefront of Blackbird, unfinished relationships, saying goodbye and leaving on a high note, not a hospital bed.
Blackbird manages to produce a calm yet melancholic edge, an emotional wave that keeps pulling the viewer deep into its depths. The thought of losing a loved one is a difficult pill to swallow, yet the impending threat of death resonating throughout this film feels inevitable, it’s less about Lilly but more so about how her family comes to terms with this earth-shattering event. It’s this attitude towards loss which makes for a memorable viewing experience.
As grandmother Lilly’s (Susan Sarandon) health seemingly deteriorates throughout the film, you see her struggle to tackle day-to-day activities while keeping up a witty and sarcastic demeanour. Sarandon’s portrayal of Lilly is sorrowful yet brilliant, the pain behind her sarcasm is poignant, yet the silence of the situation is deafening.
Sarandon’s subtle yet powerful performance is backed up by the brilliant Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska, respectively playing Lilly’s daughters Jennifer and Anna.
The character of Anna, beautifully played by Mia Wasikowska, shows the struggle of a daughter who just isn’t yet ready for the death of her mother. Estranged from her family and overshadowed by her sister, Anna plays the part of the black sheep of the family, her relationship with sister Jennifer creates a number of clashes creating a toxic family dynamic they have to try and repair before the death of their mother.
Blackbird is a tragic yet curiously positive feature, it manages to balance its depressing subject with a some-what uplifting view of an a-typical family dynamic. It’s manic highs give-way to its crushing lows, so its recommended to keep a box of tissues within arm’s length.
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