Lance Edmand’s Bluebird was met with much acclaim when it arrived at Tribeca, and it deserves everything that’s come to it. However… the film is something of a highwire act, but though it never falls to one side and loses its balance, the rope sinks to the ground a little more than it should, so the event is not quite as enthralling as it could be.
If you’ll excuse the terrible analogy, perhaps it’s better put by saying that it isn’t engaging in the sense that you become attached to the various characters who we focus on; but rather the atmosphere and the pace, which is handled perfectly, are what will interest whoever watches it.
The basic premise is how a community is affected by a young boy falling into a coma- The bus driver Lesley (Amy Morton) whose slip of thoroughly checking her bus at the end of the day results in the boy practically freezing to death overnight. The boy’s troubled young mother Marla (Louise Krause) who isn’t initially sure how to react to events. Marla’s mother Crystal (Margo Martindale), who doesn’t understand what her daughter is doing. Lesley’s husband Richard (John Slattery), who loses his job at the struggling Log mill. And their daughter Paula (Emily Meade), who feels unloved and unwanted.
Perhaps the film’s major problem is that the focus is on too many people- it’s easy to see why Edmands moves from affected person to affected person, in order to create a snapshot of a community, but when there isn’t one person we spend time with that really gains our sympathy or the audience can connect with, this backfires.
If we had spent more time with Richard, Lesley and Paula, then the film may have been more moving and more affecting. There is the implication that Richard was having an affair at one point, but this is never fully explored. That seems like a scenario with some real dramatic implication. Meade’s Paula is perhaps the most engaging presence in proceedings, and to have put more focus on her would have perhaps weighed out all the performances a bit better.
However, if the perfectly decent performances are a factor to nitpick over, the sheer craft of the whole thing is undeniable- Jody Lee Lipes’ cinematography is undeniably the star of the show, and why this guy isn’t doing bigger stuff by now is a mystery- it is without doubt the best thing in an already engaging film, and it becomes the most likable character in Bluebird.
The editing, a joint effort between Edmands and Dino Jonsäter, is another standout part of the film, and perhaps what makes it so good, more than the cinematography- it takes truly great editing to not only make a film flow, but to command the pace and set it to whatever speed that is intended. And it’s evident that Edmands and Jonsäter are master editors.
And it can’t go unmentioned that Inbal Weinberg’s production design is par excellence. So one thing that Bluebird cannot be criticised for is the standard of quality apparent throughout the picture, which outs it a firm cut above many other independent films. Edmands certainly understands the Maine landscape, as he is a native and it was a case of the location inspired the film that came to be set there.
There’s nothing better than a film that becomes about, and is defined by, its landscape. And Bluebird certainly is that. But one can’t make an exceptional film on that alone.
It is by all means a film worth your time, but perhaps works better when viewed as an artwork, or a poem, rather than a film that will entertain, provoke and engage. The pace of it is refreshing, and this is a film with clear directorial intent- but maybe by being so well commanded by its captain, the film’s progression never quite feels organic.
Verdict: Despite being excellently crafted and a level above most indie dramas of the same ilk, Bluebird is too emotionally detached for you to become fully immersed in the world it creates and for an audience to actually care about what’s happening to any of the characters who inhabit it. But make no mistake; what Bluebird definitely does is mark out Lance Edmands as a major talent and a solid new voice to keep an eye on.
Bluebird is coming soon to the UK
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