Thursday, November 17, 2016

Film Review - The Birdwatcher

Saffron (Camille Sullivan) likes to help people. She works as a counselor in a drug rehab centre in Vancouver. She is a single mother of two children, a teenage daughter that fiercely wants her independence and a pre teen curious inquisitive son that hangs on her every word. Saffron is also battling cancer. She attends chemotherapy session and smokes marijuana at night opening her bedroom window to reveal the ever-present hummingbird feeder. Her health concerns turn terminal when she learns that her cancer has metastasized forcing the need to make arrangements for her children.  Anna (Nneka Croal) her friend at work is unwilling to take them, the children's father Wynne (Aidan Devine) a former counselor turned junkie is unable leaving only her birth mother who she never met and has a request for no contact on the file as the final option.

The film suffers from a lack of character development in Roslyn Muir's script. The characters especially (Matreya Fedor) as Lucy the bratty teen daughter Lucy are thin for the majority of the film.  The method used by Saffron to approach her mother is also unpleasant boiling down to being a cruel ambush. Her actions in pursuit of her birth mother make her unlikeable and unsympathetic which is a stark contrast to what one would expect from a patient empathetic drug rehab social worker. The dialogue of the film is at its lowest during the exchanges between Saffron and her co-worker Anna the pair battle to determine who can say the most curse words in the shortest period of time. Saddled with this script director Siobhan Devine tries to present a story about a difficult subject matter but except for the two scenes with Saffron's ex Wynne (Devine) the rest of the cast does not have the grit or depth to pull off the content.

The majority of the film takes place in an RV park in British Columbia's North Shore Mountains that is prime bird watching territory. Safforn's birth mother Birdy a curmudgeonly (Gabrielle Rose) does  not like people believing that their only purpose is to disturb nature. She is working on her latest book on a tight deadline when Safforn and the kids show up at the camp invading her space to such an extent that she thinks that her campsite neighbour is actually a groupie. A series unwanted events from Birdy's perspective ensue cumulating at an event hosted by Birdy and her cheerful artist partner Finch (Garwin Sanford).

The film has some stronger moments in the final sequences before the credits roll but piece is centred  on a narrative that has been told many times before with stronger writing featuring more seasoned actors with superior range. Director Devine deserves credit for bringing a full length feature project to the screen. Hopefully this process will be a development tool that can aid her in her next and future projects.

** Out of 4.

The Birdwatcher | Siobhan Devine | Canada | 2015 | 89 Minutes.

Tags: Cancer, Birding, Binoculars, RV Park, Counsellor, Junkie, Foster Care, Birth Mother, Vancouver, B.C.

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