- BOTTOM LINE: A Laborious Psychological Drama
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Thriller|
What Is the Story About?
When a friend Lilly (Riley Keough) goes missing, the police bring Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) for questioning suspecting a foul play and murder. As the investigation continues the tumultuous past of Lucy is revealed involving her childhood and love life. Did she kill Lilly is what ultimately the movie boils down to?
Alicia Vikander puts in a simple yet intense act, one that has a lot of suffering internally. The mercurial rise and fall in emotions, from happiness to anger and sadness are all well exhibited by the actress. It is a challenging and complicated part, and she does justice to it.
Many scenes stand out acting-wise, even though narratively crippled or dull. The self-guilt of doing the wrong and the ultimate realising is the best part. It not only brings relief to her character but also to us as a viewer.
Wash Westmoreland of Still Alice fame directs Earthquake Bird. He had helped actress Julianne Moore sweep the ‘Best Actress’ awards for the year the movie came out. Earthquake Birds offers a similar scope for the lead, but it fizzles out narratively.
There are three layers to the proceedings which might look simple on the surface. The psychological aspect is primary, where Lucy thinks that she brings death everywhere she goes. Then there is the love story and finally, a thriller amidst all these.
The setting of 1989 Japan, and the real locations and all bring out beautiful imagery. The extraordinary background score takes us right into the proceedings immediately. The actors, especially the lead, Alicia Vikander, are perfect. We expect a thrilling and emotionally fulfilling outing, and yet the narrative fails to engage on any level consistently. It only does so in parts.
The screenplay is to be faulted here as it jumps timelines without any clarity. Of course, it demands the attention of the viewer one hundred percent, which is fine, and that would make that issue go away, eventually. But, it still leaves a trail of dissatisfaction as the end result doesn’t match to the effort one puts in it.
Secondly, at the story level, it turns predictable very soon. The slow pace further makes the whole exercise to reach to the revelation tiring and restless. The small moments or situations that are supposed to add to the overall impact feel indulgent and lacking depth. The emotional connection never occurs.
The three primary characters have well sketched out background info, which helps the screenplay at crucial points. But the meandering narrative kills there impact. With that past not having the impact they needed to have, the overall plot comes across as typical love triangle. It is definitely not what the director must have envisioned or wanted to convey.
The final blow is the climax which appears too silly after all the psychological build-up. If that is all that was needed to bring a change, it could have happened much earlier.
Earthquake Birds fails on all the three layers it builds its narrative on. The romance might be the best of the lot, followed by the psychological aspect.
In the end, despite some well-acted and exquisitely shot scenes, there is nothing worthwhile in Earthquake Bird. It is plodding and laborious in its portrayal of emotions, leaving one yawning.
Apart from Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough and Naoki Kobayashi play vital parts. Riley Keough is superb in all the scenes with Alicia. They get the small nuances right and make little moments work. An example can be seen when they start to bond together through the learning of the language.
Similarly, Naoki Kobayashi brings mysteriousness to the proceedings with his act. He appears too stiff at times, but it also helps when he loosens out in other scenes. It adds to the ‘mystery’ on his character. The actors deserved better for the effort they put in all one can say.
Music and Other Departments?
Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne are credited with the music. The work they have put in is sensational. We get instantly sucked into the narrative courtesy the music and continue to be dazzled with it. At times, it even feels to be overpowering the narrative. Such is the impact that, after a point when nothing is happening visually, it is enough to close eyes and listen to the background score, and that might seem worth the time.
The cinematography by Chung Chung-Hoon is superb. It showcases the locales of Japan so beautifully. Every frame feels real and picture-perfect. The editing could have been better, no doubt. The writing is also decent, but it also lacks the required impact.
Did I Enjoy It?
Earthquake Bird Review by Siddartha Toleti
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