The Starling reunites Bridesmaids alumni Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd in a heavy but heartfelt drama about traversing the unimaginable grief of losing a baby. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it’s blinding in its obviosities, but if you embrace that and let it take you on its predestined track, there is more to love than loathe about it.
Written by Alex Gilston
The Starling opens up following a bird flying across sweeping shots of the landscape with the backdrop of an original Lumineers song. This sets the tone for the film instantly, and is make or break whether you’ll be on board with it or not. It follows Lily (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) who have lost their baby. A year on from the loss and they are attempting to deal with it in their own ways. Lily is still trying to commit to everyday life including her job. When Lily finally decides to clear out her overgrown garden she finds that a starling has nested up in one of the trees, and it starts to harass her. In the process of dealing with the bird she goes on a journey of rediscovery with a psychologist-turned-vet Larry (Kevin Kline).
Considering the subject matter of The Starling it is quietly funny and charming. It embraces a lot of silliness around the main plot which is just Melissa McCarthy having an elongated fight with a bird. Despite this it never goes too far, and doesn’t feel disrespectful to the larger themes of the film. The subject of grief isn’t dealt with in this film in any kind of new or exciting way, but it could potentially go a long way to helping people who may be or may have experienced this.
The strongest aspects of The Starling are far and away the performances. Melissa McCarthy once again, after Can You Ever Forgive Me?, proves that she is perfect in a more serious role. She also does get to embrace her comic side with some of the sillier parts of the film. Chris O’Dowd on the other hand has to work his way around a very serious performance. It is impressively genuine, and he is the real stand out even though he doesn’t have lots of screen time.
If there was anything that might draw you away from wanting to watch this film it would be the obvious metaphors. Whether it be the pesky bird, the overgrown garden that Lily clears up and starts to grow vegetables on, or getting rid of furniture to forget the past, it almost insults the audience's intelligence. The Starling is a very surface level film but that isn’t necessarily a negative point.
If you can get past the obvious metaphors, and its straightforward approach to grief, The Starling is a worthwhile experience. The main performances carry the piece, and the original soundtrack by The Lumineers sounds brilliant. It’s simplicity ends up being the film’s strongest aspect.