Published on July 5th, 2013 | by Allan Brown2
EIFF 2013: Blackbird Review
Movie Review: Blackbird (2013)
Director: Jamie Chambers
Writer: Robyn Pete, Jamie Chambers, John Crain
Cast: Andrew Rothney, Scarlett Mack, Patrick Wallace, Sheila Stewart, Norman Maclean, Robert Turner, Margaret Bennett
Plot: Ruadhan, a young local folk singer grows increasingly anxious with the way his small Scottish village is rapidly changing beyond his control.
Written and Directed by the creative mind of Jamie Chambers, Blackbird is a modest Scottish drama that explores the clash between the preservation of traditions and cultural heritage in the fast moving contemporary world of the 21st century.
The film centres around young Ruadhan (Andrew Rothney), a strange, solitary but sensitive soul, who when not on his daily ramblings collecting peculiar oddities for his battered houseboat that sits marooned on a hilltop on Alec’s (Norman Maclean) land, he spends his time with the older generation of the community, captivated by the old ways and in particular their Scottish folk songs.
The clash between old and new is the main theme here and one that effortlessly drives the narrative forward. Despite it being a universal theme, the characters in the story anchor it in subtle ways, making it feel a very personal and sincere journey.
When Amy (Scarlett Mack) reluctantly returns to the village after spending several years studying in Glasgow, she too struggles adjusting back into the community. Feeling at odds, Amy finds solace in her childhood friend Ruadhan and soon a relationship of sorts is established. However, when one of the elderly villagers dies, Ruadhan’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and self destructive, as he refuses to accept the quickening changes to his idyllic village, changes that are ultimately out of his control.
The intricacies in each of their characters can be felt subtly in every frame.
Ruadhan foresees the forces of change from outside influences as a runaway threat that can only culminate with losing all that once was. In his increasingly anxious and stubborn state of mind he fails to see that perhaps the old and new can co-exist and establish a mutual harmony.
When Amy’s step mother buys up Alec’s land, Ruadhan is left with no choice but to move and this is where Ruadhan reaches a crossroads in his life. With Amy moving back to Glasgow and his close friend Callum (Patrick Wallace) toying with the ambitions and dreams of escaping the clutches of his father by driving to Spain, Ruadhan must make a life changing decision and discover who he truly is and where he wants to be.
His fear for the loss of tradition and heritage comes to a head when he witness for the first time – through his fog of stubbornness, these traditions living on, embraced by the 21st century. Ruadhan hears the folk songs he was so frantically trying to learn and preserve, live on through a recording on Amy’s IPod. He also hears a young local girl singing the songs of old, continuing the cultural legacy. This is perhaps the moment that everything clicks for Ruadhan, and indeed the moment he understands that perhaps these two ways of life can co-exist after all.
The cinematography is elegant and captures the wild Scottish landscape beautifully, playing as much a character as the cast itself. Andrew Rothney, Scarlett Mack, Patrick Wallace and Norman Maclean especially, give naturalistic, stand-out performances that bring the film to life with an unmatched vibrancy. The intricacies in each of their characters can be felt subtly in every frame.
Summary: Blackbird remains one of the first films I have seen in a long time that feels honest and authentically Scottish, despite its universal theme. It is not only a beautiful film, full of character and charm but also a stunning piece of filmmaking. Blackbird had its world premier at The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013 and despite not winning the major award, it was certainly one of the finest films in its category.