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Blackbird
Year:
2012
Country:
Canada
Genre:
Drama
IMDB rating:
7.0
Director:
Alexia Fast as Deanna Roy
Bill Carr as Judge Campbell
Tanya Clarke as Paula
Jeremy Akerman as Superintendant Kirby
John Beale as Allen
Michael Buie as Ricky Randall
Storyline: This is a film about a troubled teen, Sean Randall, who is falsely accused of planning a Columbine shooting scenario. It all begins when an unlikely bond forms between Sean (Connor Jessup) and a preppy teenage girl named Deanna Roy (Alexia Fast). Deanna's boyfriend is deeply threatened by Sean and Deanna's friendship, resulting in a violent confrontation. Seeking to protect himself, Sean issues a death threat online - and is swiftly arrested. When the police raid Sean's home, they find rifles, shotguns, knives and ammunition - all property of Sean's father Ricky (Michael Buie), an avid hunter. They also find a supposed "hit list" with twenty names of people who have tormented Sean. The authorities and the media proclaim another Columbine has been narrowly averted, and soon Sean faces a terrifying imprisonment in a youth detention facility. Sean's only hope is to overcome his dark image, and prove his innocence to Deanna and to his community.
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Reviews
This Could Happen To You
Sean Randall (Conner Jessup) is a troubled teen in remote Canada who lives with his dad (Michael Buie) - who has a lot of unsecured guns he uses for hunting. Sean is bullied at school and is urged to take out his anger by writing a story about it. His story includes a massacre at school and winds up in the hands of the authorities who assume it's a threat. And things only get worse when he's confined to a lockup for wayward youth.

The first part of the film was strong, because the character was very angry, unrepentant, and real. And then, unfortunately, the writer- director (Jason Buxton) decided to tack on a critique of Canadian youth detention facilities as part of the story. The critique was weak and only served to blunt the force of Sean's individual story.

Except for the criticism above, the film was well-written, well acted and looked great considering the shoe-string budget.

The film points out that we really need to examine the things that automatically raise our fears to see if they are real or just over- reactions to situations that don't nicely fit into our comfort zone. Let's hope it gets a US release.
2012-09-22
Superbly written, acted and paced.
I was unable to guess what route this film was going to take, it could have gone several routes but the one it chose was thought provoking, intelligent and beautifully pitched. The acting was first class, I'd only really seen Connor Jessup in Falling Skies - which I do like - and was pleased to see a very fine performance here. Michael Buie was superb as his dad and all other cast members were strong and believable. At times there was the chance for the movie to fall into a cliché but it managed to avoid that every time with some aplomb. In short, this is a fine film that I would highly recommend. I note that this is the writer/directors first feature, I very much look forward to his next project.
2013-12-03
A juvie drama that gets it right
My career as a movie journalist began with a juvie drama in 2006 when I traveled to the SXSW Film Festival to attend the World Premiere of "The Bondage." That picture, starring Michael Angarano and Mae Whitman, made my first festival Top 10 list. In 2010, two other juvie dramas, both at the Philadelphia Film Festival, ended up on my Top 10 from that event. Those films, the Romania/Sweden co-production "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle" and the Canada/France/UK co-production "Dog Pound," raised the bar a bit more for this oft-explored sub-genre. Now another Canadian entry mines this fertile territory with "Blackbird," the auspicious feature debut of writer/director/producer Jason Buxton.

Let it be said at the outset that this is not an overly complicated narrative, and isn't meant to be. There's essentially one set, the detention center where the boys are held. Although the storyline is chilling and timely, it would be best not to reveal the details of why they're there, and it isn't really what "Blackbird" is about. Ultimately, this is an intense character study revolving around a couple of jailed teens, Sean and Trevor. In that sense it's quite theatrical, and one can easily see this as a stage production. It's a two-man show, and the filmmakers triumph because of the actors' palpable passion for and commitment to the project.

Connor Jessup is Sean, protagonist in the delicate dance on which his survival depends. His nemesis Trevor is played by Alex Ozerov. Buxton made the wise decision to cast actors of the same age, so Jessup's commanding performance -- he was 17 at the time -- is that much more remarkable. Not a huge surprise, though, since he's been acting since the age of 13 and in five short years has almost 50 television episodes under his belt, including a season of the Steven Spielberg-produced "Falling Skies." He's also accomplished behind the camera, as well, having executive produced and handling assistant camera for last year's Toronto Film Festival hit "Amy George." Ozerov has several television productions and shorts to his credit as well. This is his first feature. Yet he's on screen in virtually every scene and is a worthy foe to Jessup. The film doesn't work without his almost demonic counterpoint to the just this side of angelic Sean. The movie's success largely rests on the shoulders of Jessup, and he's more than up to the task. What a casting coup. The camera loves him and the physical transformation he goes through, although expected given the genre, is surprising nonetheless. Connor Jessup is a star in the making.

There are other characters intertwined with the primary pas-de-deux between Sean and Trevor. The triumvirate of Sean's pivotal relationships is rounded out by his dad Ricky (Michael Buie) and friend Deanna (Alexia Fast). The cast also includes a rowdy crew of fellow inmates. Their improvised actions and dialogue just add even more to the authenticity.

The film's look effectively matches the protagonist's (and our) emotions. Lighting is harsh and subdued in the cold facility, with shadows in Sean's dark world when his life seems to make little sense. He's more brightly lit as his character starts to transform. The soundtrack serves the narrative and is never distracting in what is basically a quiet experience on many levels.

Stéphanie Anne Weber Biron's cinematography is appropriately claustrophobic. In Sean's life, the walls are closing in. He's a stranger in a strange land. Long takes with little dialogue echo the work of Gus Van Sant, who's covered similar ground in his films. Rear tracking shots mirror the increasing paranoia of Sean's entrapment. One can sense him asking, "Is there someone behind me?" And there is -- the viewer.

There's more character development than one may be used to as it's vital for us to be drawn into Sean's world long before his situation begins its downward spiral. By the time the threats to his well-being become real, we feel his pain. Just as we settle into a comfort level with this crew, the roller coaster begins. From that point on Sean is the heart and soul of "Blackbird." Told with limited dialogue, the film is so compelling that I could not look away for fear I'd miss another dramatic glance, or glare, or flinch. By the time the credits rolled I felt drained, as though my emotions were incarcerated in Sean's cell. That's the very definition of art, being moved, feeling alive even as your heart is being put through the wringer. That's not an easy task to accomplish for young actors and a first-time feature director, but "Blackbird" does it, and gets it right.
2012-10-05
A young man is forced to face up to his mistakes. Bullying in the new world.
Great movie about life, and little mistakes that a child will be pushed into making huge, that just happens to be Canadian. Though slow to start, this is a very well acted and directed movie that has a great look and feel all the way through. The town feels real, and the people really feel like they are from this town. I honestly found it very easy to relate to the characters in this movie, every one of them, like personalities of one mixed up mind. This poor kid makes the simplest mistakes, and a decade or so back that would have been it, but times are changed, and people have to take everything much more seriously so there must be consequences. Think Bad Boys with Sean Penn but more contemporary, and far less rapie. The real meat of this story though happens half way through and all the way to the end, once our hero finally really takes his first steps towards joining, and stops rebelling. I was impressed with the over all feel of the movie, and there were some very good tense scenes that were dealt with very truthfully. I obviously really Enjoyed this one, and I know once you get past the slow start, it's one you will remember long afterward.
2013-12-03
cliché material treated well
A cliché story. Lots of cliché moments. The lack of a feel-good ending where one might be expected is itself being cliché these days (although the film does end on a high note, just not a sickeningly sweet one).

Good direction. Adequate cinematography. Rather good cast.

That doesn't sound like an 8 to you? Well, it's an 8 to me. Compared to the other movies I've seen recently this was a breath of fresh air. The cast really is excellent. The script is mostly understated with a few slip-ups. The characters aren't believable, but hey, they do a good enough job being unbelievable.

This movie shows what talented, meticulous filmmakers can do with a good cast and without much money. The result is more entertaining than explosions and special effects. Too bad more people don't feel that way. I'd love to see more movies like this. To me, they're much more absorbing than what's being made in bulk these days.

Praise aside, I feel like there was a definite missed opportunity to explore some interesting or unique elements. The jail scenes were begging for some psychedelic flashes or a breakdown of reality in some way. Think the ant scene from Oldboy or the rabbit dream sequence from Sexy Beast. That's just my inclination though. Either way, I can't rate what wasn't in the movie, only what was. This one is good all the way around.
2013-12-02
Review about Blackbird
Film very liked me. It is watched like one minutes. Very interesting. I recommend it all who would watched film about life. There aren't special effects, superheroes and anybody likes they. This the story about love, loneliness, fear and friendship. The topic of film isn't new, but what will be after you won't guess. Film haven't got any elements of soup opera like tears, embracing, kisses, languishing look and etc. It is excellent. Film shows like hard to live person who is done something not as established in society. The system works so that you will broken and become like all, as well. But if you decided that never will be in you life, so you love film necessarily.
2014-01-12
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