Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Timothy Olyphant, Skyler Gisondo, Elisabeth Röhm and Kevin Kline
Run time: 1h 42min
Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) have everything going for them. Good jobs, a loving marriage, a big house and a beautiful baby daughter. However, their idyllic existence is shattered as they share a devastating and tragic loss.
They deal with the dreadful situation in very different ways, yet both need the same help as they attempt to come to terms with their plight. As Jack heals in a mental healthcare facility, Lilly seeks solace through her talks with a quirky psychiatrist-turned-veterinarian (Kevin Kline) whilst at the same time struggling to deal with a territorial starling in her front garden. As her conflict with the bird grows, she rediscovers her ability to love as her maternal instinct once again begins to soar.
Director Theodore Malfi and writer Matt Harris have created an intriguing and emotional exploration of grief made even more compelling courtesy of three outstanding lead performances. Yes, it’s predictable and a little too obvious with its symbolic analogies and heavy-handed metaphors which would be more at home on the Hallmark Channel, but its intentions are admirable.
McCarthy and O’Dowd showcase anger, resentment and emotional torment with accomplished ease. The disintegration of their marriage is heart-breaking and a frustrating watch for an outsider. That’s where Kline’s reluctant therapist comes in. His moments with McCarthy highlight the importance of communication and reaching out as well as the potential consequences of not doing so. O’Dowd’s inner turmoil and self-loathing will sadly be familiar to many. Regularly revisiting his past, his constant ‘what if?’ question is in desperate need of being answered as he strives for the redemption that might just be beyond his reach.
However, not everything hits the heady heights aimed for. Questionable CGI ruffles some feathers, there’s a little too much slapstick, particularly during Lilly’s fights with the bothersome bird which doesn’t fit with the subject matter and Timothy Olyphant’s grocery store manager is supposed to be comic relief but ends up an unnecessary distraction with his unusual performance. Regardless of this, it’s always compelling and at its best when dealing with the more grounded after-effects of such a traumatic event. Moments such as removing a cot bed’s indentations from a carpet and finding a lost sock leave a lasting impression.
Worth watching for the wealth of acting talent on display and in these days of increased awareness about mental health challenges, The Starling provides a simple message to a complex issue. It’s okay to not be okay.
The Starling will be released globally on Netflix from 24th September 2021