BLACKBIRD – Review by Liz Whittemore

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Blackbird will hit home for anyone who has watched a loved one slowly deteriorate due to illness. Matriarch Lily has requested support from her family so she can die on her own terms. This arrangement comes as no surprise and s everyone has agreed to spend their final weekend together as a family unit and be present for what will come. We see everyone go through the stages of grief and they are messy and honest. And while secrets are exposed and new information comes to light, Blackbird leaves space for truth and real emotion. Three generations, significant others, and a best friend under one roof. This film boasts an extraordinary ensemble cast giving each actor the opportunity to shine through Christian Torpe’s screenplay. These characters are fully fleshed out, flawed human beings with nuanced personalities. The family dynamic has an authenticity that is akin to 2005’s The Family Stone.

Susan Sarandon is a total pro in both her portrayal of a woman stricken with ALS and the emotionally complex head of the family. Sam Neill plays her doting husband with delicate care. Pay attention to the quietude of this performance. It speaks volumes. Rainn Wilson is the lovable doof of a son-in-law. His sweet charm is unmissable. Bex Taylor-Klaus brings a levelheaded mediator sensibility to her role as daughter Anna’s partner. As Lily’s best friend, Lindsey Duncan has a kindness and presence that wonderfully balances the familial chaos. Anson Boon as grandson Jonathan has a fresh innocence that is a gorgeous generational foil for matriarchal Sarandon. Their scenes are lovely. Daughters Jennifer and Anna, played by Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska, are one of the most fascinating relationships to watch in Blackbird. Complete opposites, both in personality and favor with Lily, Winslet plays a type-A caretaker and Wasikowska, a bit of a free-spirited flake. Watching them play off one another is like a glorious tennis match. All of this talent in one film, combined with the stunning setting of an architecturally interesting house in an imaginary East Coast shore town, make for a genuinely engrossing viewing experience. Blackbird will touch your soul and make you want to hug your loved ones more than ever in 2020.

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Liz Whittemore

Liz Whittemore is the author of AWFJ's I SCREAM YOU SCREAM blog. She is Co-Managing Editor and writes for, hosts the podcast Girls On Film and is a contributing writer for and The ArtsWireWeekly. Now New York-based, she was born and raised in northern Connecticut. She's a graduate of The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, and has performed at Disneyland and famed Hartford Children's Theater, and been a member of NYC's Boomerang Theater, Connecticut's Simsbury Summer Theater, Virginia's Offstage Theatre, where she also directed. Her film credits include Suburban Skies and Surrender. In 2008, she shot Jabberwocky, a documentary now in post-production. Liz is still a children's theatre director and choreographer. She's working on an updated adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and a series of children's books.