The Bird is a beautifully composed short film which deftly engages with how the fallout of a loved one’s death can impact on those left behind, in often very contrasting ways. Co-directed by comedy writer Joe Parham and stand-up comedian Ben Target (who just previously made their debut with Frank, which screened in a number of film festivals), The Bird takes on the form of an intimate character study, with the two actors excelling in their idiosyncratic roles.
Julia Davis (Nighty Night and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself) stars as a grieving mother who, in coping with a family tragedy, ignores her son (Alastair Roberts) in favour of lavishing time and kindness on a loyal garden bird who appears every morning. The son becomes increasingly obsessed with securing his mother’s love, and resorts to ever more extreme lengths to get it. Both parts are near silent so it’s a great credit to Davis and Roberts that they manage to present so much emotion and intelligence through their performances.
A number of visual and audio motifs drift through the The Bird, for example the birdcall that the mother uses to attract her feathery friend – it is a lovely touch that continues through the whole film and acts as a powerful undercurrent. Right from the opening shot of a desolate graveyard, the mood of death seeps into the film in some subtle and not so subtle ways. It is a melancholy piece, but one that possesses a wicked black sense of humour.
The Bird is a highly enjoyable short film, one that thoughtfully studies high-minded themes, but never in a sanctimonious or condescending way. Indeed its primary storytelling tools are humour and surrealism, which gently build in the background of the narrative, weaving melancholy and absurdity together for the big finale.