Death on film is interesting to look at - we have physical representations in 'Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey' or 'Family Guy', but more often than not we often have characters discussing death and how they cope with it, from 'The Fault in Our Stars' to 'Coco' and the terrible 'Collateral Beauty'. Much like our own personal relationships with death, its portrayal on film is a complicated one and comes in many different forms.
In 'Blackbird', Lily (Susan Sarandon, 'The Big Wedding', 'Enchanted'), who is slowly losing her body to ALS, and her husband, Paul (Sam Neill, 'Hunt For The Wilderpeople', 'Palm Beach', 'Jurassic Park'), invite their family and closest friend over to send Lilly off, as she has decided to end her life before the ALS does.
This is an all-star cast led by Sarandon and Neill, and includes their youngest daughter Anna (Mia Wasikowska, 'Crimson Peak', 2010's 'Alice in Wonderland'), friend Elizabeth (Lindsay Duncan, 'Birdman', 'About Time'), son-in-law Michael (Rainn Wilson, 'The Meg', 'Juno') and his wife, Jennifer (Kate Winslet, 'The Mountain Between Us', 'The Dressmaker'). That's right: Dwight is married to Kate freaking Winslet in this. The cast is what makes this film, and their combined chemistry gives it a stronger emotional weight. Even relativity unknows such as their grandson Jonathan (Anson Boon, 'Crawl', '1917') and Anna's girlfriend Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus, 'The Last Witch Hunter', Netflix's 'Dumplin''), both hold their own up against these acting heavyweights.
Sarandon is honestly award-winning in this film; her performance is chilling, and you can feel the weight of her decision to end her life on her own terms play heavily into every decision she makes.
Sarandon is honestly award-winning in this film; her performance is chilling, and you can feel the weight of her decision to end her life on her own terms play heavily into every decision she makes. Winslet is equally as powerful as the daughter who is always trying to make everything right, especially when teamed with her young sister who is the loose cannon of the family. Neill gives a subtler performance, but still has some tear-jerking moments.
What weighs the film down is the script. This is a remake of the Danish film 'Silent Heart', which I haven't seen, but it seems they have added more Hollywood tropes to make the film more dramatic, thus making it more formulaic. We get third-act twists and family secrets revealed, but none of it is really pulled off effectively. When the film is focusing on the Lily saying goodbye to her family and coming to terms with her decision is when the film shines. Every time the film injects unnecessary drama it lost me - and took a while to pull me back emotionally. However, that's not to say the film doesn't pack an emotional punch.
Family drama films, of course, need... well, drama, but when the central story is focused on a family member choosing to end their life, everything not to do with that feels unnecessary and cheap.
'Blackbird' only flies high thanks to its incredibly strong cast, and although the narrative misses dramatic beats, the film still packs an emotional punch while adding to the conversation about legalised euthanasia.