Writers: Dominic Wells and Elizabeth Morris
Director: Kirsty Bell
Hearing about other’s people lockdown experience is one of those social obligations we can’t avoid as people return to offices but it’s not something we necessarily want to pay for. Dominic Wells and Elizabeth Morris’ new film A Bird Flew In, showing at the Raindance Film Festival 2021 and directed by Kirsty Bell, is essentially Love Actually for Covid times, an indulgent piece that explores a series of inter-related stories about actors trapped in their lovely homes.
In March 2020 when their film pauses production, the cast and crew of a movie are sent home each struggling to make sense of what is happening to them. Contacting each other to varying degrees, editors Lucy and Diane start to get closer only for personal tragedy to intervene, David and Rebecca find isolation lonely while the relationship between Ari and Rick hits the rocks.
Staged as a series of independent but connected plots, A Bird Flew In wants to address the range of experiences during the first lockdown as well as looking to the themes that draw the perspectives together but ends up feeling overly sentimental and stagey. You might even find yourself slightly resenting its implication that actors prevented from working is somehow more poetic and profound than anyone else’s experience in the summer of 2020.
It is clearly not the film’s intention but the ponderous black and white style – which seems to be de rigueur among movies that consider themselves terribly arty and meaningful – the heartfelt score and wistful song choices that wouldn’t be out of place on a John Lewis Christmas advert, as well as the variously tender-melancholy tales all feel overly contrived to tug at the heartstrings while having the exact opposite effect.
The London Film Festival demonstrated how many productions had achieved magnificent things even with Covid restrictions in place while theatres responded with all kinds of adaptive techniques in response to the opportunities that filming presents, so A Bird Flew In seems remarkably uninspired in both subject matter and style.
It has a very fine cast of course, one of its major selling points including Derek Jacobi who builds a remote friendship with local doctor Frances Barber. The ever-watchable Morgana Robinson is a designer who falls for a colleague over Zoom but suffers deeply, while Camilla Rutherford turns her hand to an online channel as the tragic Lucy seeking some form of connection.
But the acting isn’t the problem and while there have been plenty of films and television shows that have offered innovative responses to lockdowns, Simon Evans’ hilarious Staged for example, the overwhelming response to A Bird Flew In is ‘so what’. The last 18-months has been a gruelling experience for the creative industries with many unsure what would be left of them when the pandemic was over. With its economically secure characters staged in pretty gardens and nicely furnished rooms, this story isn’t the one we needed to tell.
A Bird Flew In is screening at the Raindance Film Festival on 5 November.