Saturday, 16 November 2019

Shudder Saturday: A Bluebird In My Heart (2018)

Interestingly enough, looking to pick my usual Shudder choice for the week, I saw some comments mentioning the fact that A Bluebird In My Heart had a certain noir quality to it. Hmmmmmm, having now watched the film, I am not sure I would agree. It comes close though, and considering that nothing is necessarily set in stone when it comes to the conventions, and the way various elements are used and reworked, I would say that it comes close enough to count for anyone trying to maintain a streak of constant noir for the month.

Roland Møller plays Danny, a man just out of prison and hoping to keep himself to himself while he starts to build his life again. He's staying in a motel, run by Laurence (Veerle Baetens), who is struggling to keep up with things while also dealing with her daughter, Clara (Lola Le Lann). Clara is intrigued by the new tenant, befriending him and then bombarding him with a number of questions while she reveals the main cause of her current unhappiness. As much as he tries not to be involved with those around him, Danny ends up having to take control of a very bad situation when Clara is assaulted, threatening his plans for peace and quiet.

Written and directed by Jérémie Guez, who adapted the novel by Dannie M. Martin, A Bluebird In My Heart is a difficult film to get a proper handle. It's very good, and very well put together, but it's also structured in such a way that you never really feel any sense of tension or urgency. Danny is a character who you quickly surmise will always be able to handle himself, whether out of prison or back inside, and therefore the film being about him being dragged into a sticky situation means the ending doesn't really matter. The other main characters (Laurence, Clara, and a woman named Nadia, played by Lubna Azabal) never feel endangered by the actions of Danny, making the journey essentially his and his alone, although it is Clara who goes through the biggest trauma.

That's not enough to drag the film down too far though, and Guez does a good enough job as writer-director to ensure that patient viewers will enjoy the journey he takes you on. There may be few surprises here, and there's at least one horrible unearned moment within the last few scenes, but the pleasure comes from seeing people awkwardly connect with one another, sometimes while discussing personal and unique perspectives and sometimes while discussing some universal truths.

Møller is excellent in the lead role, quietly spoken and quietly caring about those who end up within his orbit. Le Lann is also very good, moving through the usual range of teenage highs and lows, and Baetens is convincing as the woman struggling to make the best of a difficult situation she has been landed in thanks to an absent partner. Almost every other male character onscreen is trouble, to say the least, but the acting is solid from everyone involved, and Azabal also does well, despite the fact that she is landed with a role that sadly contributes little to the main plot of the film.

Good, not great. It's especially hard to keep thinking of this favourably after it's all over and you remember the many films that have wandered through similar territory, with better end results (the two that came to mind for me were Blue Ruin and Cut Snake, although that's not to say that others would automatically compare this title to those).


A Bluebird In My Heart is currently playing on Shudder.

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