Blackbird (2019)

Acting Out

A family gathers around their mother on the eve of her planned suicide. Suffering from a debilitating and rapidly progressing neural disease, she has decided to go out on her own terms, on her own timing. The family members, obviously, are of different minds about this.

Those who appreciate good acting will want to catch this film. Susan Sarandon plays the mom, ably supported by an impressive cast that includes Sam Neill, Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan and Mia Wasikowska. Special mention goes to Kate Winslet, who is so good I didn’t even recognize her until halfway through. And I just watched Mare of Easttown. Talk about “disappearing into a role.”

Each actor gets his or her chance to shine, and there are profound moments to savor even when it starts getting manipulative, especially toward the end.

So, then. All that said, this latest film from Roger Michell (Notting Hill), despite considerable thespian firepower, falls prey to a kind of smug, Actors’ Workshop vibe. It’s neither insightful nor compelling, and a bit too calculated for real life. I liked it despite my usual cynicism, but I was increasingly aware of the puppet strings. (97 min)


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