Songbird (2018)

Occasionally there are some films released that for whatever reason I don’t end up seeing at the cinema. I try to make a list of the ones I’ve missed and watch them, but there are some I have sadly still not managed to watch (Anna And The Apocalypse, Ingrid Goes West, and Tragedy Girls are three films I’m still really disappointed in myself for not catching yet). It can be harder to grab my attention when I watch at home due to more distraction, yet there are some which have ended up being some of my favourite films (The Last Word and The Young Offenders being the best examples). And sometimes there’s a reason I didn’t see at the cinema, and that reason is the film is pretty terrible, incredibly boring with nothing resembling a plot, and featuring actors who I usually like yet when they share a screen have less chemistry than a science experiment which consists of throwing mud at a chicken (conclusion; it annoys the chicken). This is one of those. I really wanted to like this film. I want Cobie Smulders to be in great films, yet with the exception of MCU films the only time I’ve seen her in a film I’ve enjoyed it’s turned out to not be her but Gemma Arterton.

I also usually love Jessica Hynes, she’s usually really great in things. Plus, Mandeep Dhillon has been in so many brilliant-yet-unknown TV shows (seriously, check out Some Girls if you haven’t already). Plus it’s a film about a musician, how can I not love this? The last British film about a struggling musician I watched was Wild Rose, and that movie was emotional to the point of sheer brilliance at times.

Well, one issue is the music. It’s established she’s a musician who was in a band that had a massive hit in the 90’s and is now reduced to tiny pubs. That doesn’t affect the plot much, like there’s nothing really that happens that could only happen to someone with that background. There are not many moments where people recognise her (which would have led to some great comedic scenes) or (and this is the biggest wasted opportunity), press intrusion on her private life. The film is ostensibly about her band breaking up and so she decides to go to university to study marine biology, I think. I mean, that’s what happens are the start of the film and seems to be the inciting incident, but it never incites anything. We never see her in classes, or studying, or meeting large groups of new people. We see her meet her dorm mates, but that just leads to more story dawdling. Apparently, this film was highly improvised, and it shows, there’s zero focus to the scenes, the scenes happen yet nothing happens in them. They’re just people filling time with dialogue. This means that a lot of moments feel false, particularly the main romantic relationship. It never feels real and they never seem to feel fully comfortable with each other.

This would be fine if it was a great example of an art-house film. If the mood and beauty of the whole thing rendered it a work of cinematic brilliance. But it’s not, it looks okay, but never more than that. Because of the improvised nature of the film that makes it really hard to tell a story visually as you don’t know what the story is when you’re filming. So everything looks kind of, I don’t know, standard? Like it’s been filmed, but in a way that doesn’t showcase film language. I’ve seen it described as “shot like a student film” and that seems painfully accurate. Actually no, it doesn’t. Film student directors tend to put A LOT of thought into shot composition, the good ones do anyway. So yeah, that’s how I’m ending it. It’s a film without love, without story, and without care.

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