In the movies, it’s almost certain that the more perfect the family, the more screwed up its members. In support of this, I give you Blackbird, a right to die drama so inauthentic and cursed that the terminal illness that its central character suffers from is nothing more than a suction device for the audience’s tears.
Not wanting to wait for her degenerative disease to make her vegetative, Lily (Susan Sarandon) invited the family to her chic Connecticut beach house for a farewell weekend before pulling the plug. Her husband (Sam Neill, in a role so vague he could have been played by a padded cardigan) is supporting him, and their varied offspring already aware of his plans will dutifully endure the fake Christmas party Lily has set her heart on. (Everyone’s way of spoiling Christmas from here on out, Lily.)
While Christian Torpes’ shallow script (adapted from the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart) dissociates ties and bickering, director Roger Michell has rarely seemed so detached. The characters are so fragile and so tired familiar to the grandson who shocks the dinner table by announcing his aspirations as an actor; the tense older sister (Kate Winslet) who frowns on her directionless younger brother (Mia Wasikowska) and her non-binary partner that Michell is unable to bring their conflicts to life.
Sarandon can sell this pablum while he sleeps, and she does. With every edge carefully polished (there’s not even a serious conversation about euthanasia), Blackbird buries the only plot point, starring Lilys’ oldest friend (played by the wonderful Lindsay Duncan), who could have unearthed a real emotion. What remains is a film that is primarily a drag and, shockingly, not because of the subject.
Rated R for relaxed toking and frenzied lovemaking. Duration: 1 hour 37 minutes. In theaters and available for hire or purchase at google play, Seen and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult Guiding lines described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies in theaters.
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