Original title:Bird
Director:Andrea Arnold
Running time:119 minutes
Release date:Not communicated
At the age of 12, Bailey lives with her brother Hunter and father Bug, who is raising them alone in a squat in North Kent. Bug doesn't have much time for them, and Bailey, nearing puberty, seeks attention and adventure elsewhere.

Mulder's Review

Andrea Arnold, the acclaimed British filmmaker known for her raw, empathetic portraits of marginalized lives, returns to narrative cinema with Bird, a film that blends raw realism and magical realism to create a poignant coming-of-age story. Following the journey of 12-year-old Bailey, played by newcomer Nykiya Adams, Bird navigates the tumultuous landscapes of broken homes, societal neglect and the search for connection.

Bailey lives in a squat in Gravesend, Kent, with her father Bug (Barry Keoghan) and older half-brother Hunter (Jason Buda). The film opens with the announcement of Bug's imminent marriage to Kayleigh (Frankie Box), a decision that displeases Bailey. Feeling neglected and unimportant, Bailey rebels against her father's plans, showing her frustration through small acts of defiance, such as cutting her hair short and applying dark eyeliner.

The central story unfolds over the course of a week, right up to Bug's wedding. During this time, Bailey meets a mysterious stranger named Bird (Franz Rogowski), whose whimsical, sweet demeanor contrasts sharply with the harsh realities of his life. Bird, who dresses in skirts and possesses an enigmatic aura, represents a form of kindness and understanding that Bailey has rarely experienced. Their bond develops as they embark on a search for Bird's long-lost parents, a journey that echoes Bailey's own quest for stability and love.

Andrea Arnold's collaboration with cinematographer Robbie Ryan is once again a remarkable aspect of the film. The slightly unsteady handheld camera captures the intimate and often chaotic moments of Bailey's life, while close-ups and tracking shots create a visceral connection with the characters' emotions. This visual style rejects conventional narrative development, emphasizing that every image and every face is equally important.

Barry Keoghan delivers a nuanced performance as Bug, portraying him as a well-meaning but fundamentally flawed father who oscillates between chaotic energy and moments of genuine caring. Keoghan's performance avoids caricature and presents Bug as a complex character whose actions are motivated by a mixture of immaturity and love. Rogowski, meanwhile, brings a magnetic, enigmatic presence to Bird, balancing mystery with a deep sense of compassion.

Nykiya Adams shines as Bailey, the film's emotional anchor. Her performance captures the strength and vulnerability of a young girl navigating a world often indifferent to her struggles. Adams' performance is both subtle and powerful, anchoring the film's most fantastical elements in a realistic, down-to-earth humanity.

Bird is also notable for its soundtrack, featuring songs like Coldplay's Yellow and Blur's The Universal, which reinforce the film's emotional landscape. These musical moments, along with Arnold's ability to handle both raw realism and moments of magical fantasy, create a rich, immersive experience.

Despite its many strengths, Bird is not without its faults. The mix of social realism and elements of magical realism may seem disjointed to some viewers, and some narrative threads, such as the subplot involving Hunter and his vigilante group, lack the depth necessary to integrate them fully into the story. What's more, the film's fantastical elements, while intriguing, sometimes disrupt the tone, which is otherwise firmly rooted in reality.

Bird is a compelling and compassionate exploration of resilience, connection and the search for meaning in the face of adversity. Andrea Arnold's return to narrative filmmaking reaffirms her talent for capturing the beauty and brutality of everyday life, and Nykiya Adams' remarkable performance ensures that Bailey's journey will linger in the viewer's memory long after the credits roll. While Bird doesn't reach the same heights as Arnold's previous works, such as Fish Tank or American Honey, it is a testament to his ability to create deeply human stories that resonate both emotionally and thematically.

Written and directed by Andrea Arnold
Produced by Lee Groombridge, Juliette Howell, Tessa Ross
Starring Barry Keoghan, Franz Rogowski
Cinematography : Robbie Ryan
Edited by Joe Bini
Production companies : BBC Film, BFI, Access Entertainment, House Productions, Ad Vitam, Arte France Cinéma, Ciné+, Canal+, FirstGen Content, Pinky Promise
Distributed by Ad Vitam Distribution (France), Mubi (United States and United Kingdom)
Release date : 16 May 2024 (Cannes)
Running time : 119 minutes

Viewed on May 26, 2024 at Gaumont Opéra Premier, Room 1

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