The Birdwatcher

Siobhan Devine’s The Birdwatcher is a bad movie, but it made me reflect on how spoiled Canadian audiences really are.

Movie goers have seen plenty of Canadian-made noteworthy dramas.  Three of my personal favourites are Sean Garrity’s Borealis, Gail Harvey’s Looking Is the Original Sin, and Jonathan Hayes’ Algonquin.  Those films feature fantastic performances that are able to stand alone while simultaneously complimenting the rest of the cast, and the filmmakers tell stories that allow the viewer to become emotionally invested.  Garrity, Harvey, and Hayes are also intelligent enough to know that there’s a particular line drawn in the sand as far as sentimentality is handled.  If they cross it, their stories stop being genuine and start being manipulative – they become melodramas.

I suppose Siobhan Devine’s naiveté with long-form storytelling and discipline is a suggestion as to why The Birdwatcher flops so badly.  Roslyn Muir’s screenplay about a distraught single mother reconnecting with her family can’t help but be sappy considering the heavy subject matter and how select themes and events progress.  Instead of tapering back Muir’s sentimentality using her directorial efforts and her performers, Devine enables the high emotions by exhausting moments of quiet reactions and allowing her cast to over-exaggerate.  The attempts at comic relief are also awkward and cheesy which evoke the wrong responses from the audience.  A running gag involving a young child’s obsession with monkeys goes from displeasing eye-rolls to unintentional laughter, and then back to eye-rolls of disbelief.

The glaring issues in The Birdwatcher do not stem from the film’s country of origin or an exhausted genre – they evolve from a storyteller’s inexperience.  If you watch The Birdwatcher, you will witness a filmmaker’s laborious growing pains.  You won’t leave the theatre satisfied.  You’ll just hope and pray that Siobhan Devine realized afterwards that this was a faltering first step towards a – hopefully – flourishing film career.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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