FILM UNFILTERED – Sarandon delivers a solid performance in ‘Blackbird’

FILM UNFILTERED – Sarandon delivers a solid performance in ‘Blackbird’


As I have grown older and my cynical self is allowed to fester longer, my lifelong tendency of being unfiltered looms larger every year. After a bit of a health scare last year, I might be even more attuned to how quickly life can be snatched away from you. I’ve certainly changed my perspective on some things, but my core sarcastic beliefs remain solid. There are just some things you’ve got to accept and no matter what happens, everyone around you is going to keep moving on. This subject matter couldn’t be better translated than in “Blackbird,” the film I’m reviewing this week.

“Blackbird” chronicles a very unique family get-together around the matriarch who has a terminal illness. Susan Sarandon, who has been in too many excellent roles to list, plays mother Lily to the assembled group. Sam Neill, another established, recognizable, and venerable actor plays her husband, Paul. They welcome home their daughters as well as their significant others for one last weekend. At the center of this story is Lily’s desire to end her life on her terms rather than end up more debilitated and on a feeding tube. Paul agrees to assist her. They’ve worked out all the details and the rest of the family isn’t necessarily on board with all of this.

Kate Winslet plays one daughter, Jennifer, and she is definitely not keen on this plan. Her son, Jonathan (Anson Boon), is asking questions but doesn’t seem too bothered by it and Rainn Wilson plays Jen’s husband, Michael, who, for the most part is usually oblivious, spouting weird obscure knowledge and generally deferring to his wife. Mia Wasikowska plays younger sister, Anna, who is adrift and uneven herself and dating a much younger woman.

They entertain Lily’s whims for the weekend, like spontaneously deciding to celebrate Christmas and then convincing everyone to share a joint after dinner. Lily knows she is upon death’s door and is enjoying ruffling everyone’s feathers in the process. Sarandon is superb in this role and while at times she might seem too carefree, I think she handles the material with aplomb and turns in a great performance. Neill is slightly more muted as husband, Paul, and he doesn’t turn in a bad performance per se, but this is more a family drama. The dynamics between mother and her daughters is tenacious at times.

This film reminded me a lot of 1982’s “The World According to Garp” or even 1983’s “Terms of Endearment,” two equally wrenching dramas of different tones but that hit on the same tender nerves. At the core of those films were many strong women. I think, though, that “Blackbird” offers something uniquely different for sure and will definitely strike a chord with some viewers since the subject matter can even be considered taboo. But for anyone that has ever had a sick relative whose mind was still sharp but has a failing body, there are aspects and undertones here in this film that make sense. It’s a solid ensemble cast film that delivers a profound and pondering tale about how we treat the living when faced with death. Available now on Amazon Prime.

The film is rated R.

Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill star in the family drama “Blackbird” now playing on Amazon Prime.