Film Review: Blackbird

Blackbird has come into fruition at the perfect time. Each one of us now spends more time glued to technology than we’d readily admit. Even primary school kids are battling the nuances of Facebook and Twitter, which have amplified social standing to an impossible degree.Sean Randall (The Saddle Club’s Connor Jessup) is your typical, disgruntled teenager. He is gothic and unrepentantly nonconformist, for which his classmates despise him. He is threatened daily by the school’s crowd of dominant sports jocks.Just to add to his troubles, he is infatuated with ‘cool’ girl Deanna (Jack Reacher’s Alexia Fast) who can only be herself when they are alone together.But before this becomes some clichéd coming-of-age film, Sean turns his misanthropic ways to social media. He is soon broadcasting his hatred across the internet, publishing his bloody fantasies for all to see. And they do.Sean is soon charged with planning a Columbine reminiscent rampage. He is demonised within his small community, and sent to youth detention. From this point, his fear and isolation intensifies due to his sadistic fellow inmate, Trevor (Alex Ozerov). Sean is also compromised morally—should he withhold the truth to escape from the escalating hell of incarceration?Blackbird places us directly in Sean’s shoes, as we too begin feeling alienated in a world governed by social media. This is the work of first time director Jason Buxton, who has created a sparse, clinical atmosphere for much of the film. Buxton allows us to become a bit outraged at Sean’s treatment—in his own words, he was “stupid, not dangerous”.Buoying the film is the performance of Connor Jessup as Sean. He plays the outcast with a quiet fury simmering under the surface. Sean reflects that teen aggravation we’ve all felt: trapped by the confines of home, dejected by the ‘sanctuary’ of school. Jessup never once feels like a rebellious teen stereotype. We come to believe that this maelstrom of mistrust could really happen to someone, somewhere.Blackbird does begin to outstay its welcome towards the end, with the whole process dragging on a bit. This is perhaps a reflection of real life, but more likely a result of Buxton excessively stating that fear is now routinely bred into young people.You get the feeling that Blackbird would not as deeply resonate with the audience at any other time in history. But with the Sandy Hook tragedy still in the back of our minds, and a reliance on social media like no other, a film like Blackbird is more powerful and affecting than ever.Blackbird is one of 13 films featuring in this year’s Next Gen program, as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. MIFF runs from July 25 to August 11. For more information and details on how to buy tickets visit Ashleigh McMillan

July 7th 2013
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