For more perspective on Blackbird, also check out my interviews with Alex Ozerov and Connor Jessup!
Light spoilers (Kind of unavoidable), nothing you won’t get from watching the trailer in terms of plot reveals.
Blackbird is definitely a complex film. I don’t mean it is hard to understand, or dense. However, every moment is so packed full of nuance and subtext that if you blink you missed SOMETHING. The attention to detail from director Jason Buxton and the rest of the crew is just mind-boggling. With a budget of just over one million dollars, and shooting schedule of around twenty days, the final product is an amazing success. Definitely not a movie to go to if you want to be cheered up, though it does have its moments of humor (or maybe it was just me, I tend to laugh at stuff I probably shouldn’t…), it conveys important themes. Obviously, everything I say in this review is my own opinion. It’s entirely possible that I ascribe some quality to a character and Jason Buxton would scream, “What? No! That’s not what I was going for at all!”
The casting was a spot-on mix of Canadian talent, with veteran actors like Michael Buie, up and comers like Alex Ozerov (whom I will be talking to on Thursday afternoon, so look for that interview Thursday night), and of course Connor Jessup.
The story Blackbird tells (check out my interview with Connor Jessup for a great synopsis of the overarching themes) is such an important one for today’s world. It seems like every other day we hear of some school shooting somewhere you would never expect, like Blackbird’s setting in rural Nova Scotia. Or a child arrested for something that 20 years ago our parents would have talked out for us with their parents, or even ignored. We live in an increasingly smaller and more sensitive world. Blackbird certainly reflects this well.
The childlike (and endearing) naiveté of Connor Jessup’s character, Sean Randall, comes through from the first moments of the film. The juxtaposition of this visually intimidating Goth kid from the big city being more oblivious than these small town Nova Scotians in terms of street smarts and human interaction plays well. (Anybody who reads the twitter account knows that if I am one thing, it is oblivious to human interaction, so that was super easy to relate too.) He quickly becomes one of the most relatable characters in recent memory, especially for younger viewers or anybody who feels lost in life. Connor Jessup’s performance is spot on and immersive, showcasing a gamut of different personalities in one character.
Contrast this with Ricky, Sean’s father, played by Michael Buie. World weary, literal-minded, he takes life as it comes at him. Fully content to live in this small town, work at an ice rink, and hunt, he seems to have none of the “Why am I here?” that dominates Sean’s thoughts. Seemingly mystified by Sean’s apparent inability to try to fit in or conform, he definitely represents the “every man.”
Sean’s mother, played by Tanya Clarke, seems mostly interested in pleasing her new husband. Taking it so far as to ship Sean off to his father’s because of the way his step-father perceives Sean.
Deanna, played by Alexia Fast, is another archetypal teenage character. She is a sort of anti-Sean. Whereas Sean in the beginning seems to revel in his outsider status, Deanna is desperate to be liked and accepted. She hides her love of alternative music and plays the part of the quintessential “joiner.”
Relative newcomer Alex Ozerov has a stand-out performance in this film as Trevor, who quickly becomes Sean’s nemesis in prison, taking it upon himself to quickly establish Sean’s place in the correctional facility pecking order. Alex’s dynamite acting skills imbue Trevor with believability and make him an oddly sympathetic character. With a gripping, based on a true story, background, Trevor is a can’t-miss character.
So I meant for this to be longer, but I wanted to get the review up as soon as possible. There will definitely be more thoughts as time goes on. We will keep you posted on the theatrical release dates when specifics come out. Do NOT miss Blackbird, see it any (LEGAL) way you can. Blackbird showcases what true talent and indie skill can create.