Melissa McCarthy stars alongside Chris O'Dowd in a Theodore Melfi directorial, 'The Starling'. The movie was written by Matt Harris and produced by Dylan Sellers, Chris Parker, Theodore Melfi and Kimberly Quinn.
Melissa McCarthy takes a leap away from her regular wheelhouse of comedy and slapstick for the lands of drama as Lilly Maynard in 'The Starling'. The movie depicts the depression of losing a child and underlines a healing process only possible through extensive self-work.
The mundane aftermath of a traumatic life event paves the way for two individuals to deal with their mental health and deal with survivors' guilt.
The mourning of Lilly and Jack Maynard
As individuals, Lilly and Jack are compelled to realise that it is imperative to find a way to accept their tragedy and move forward with their lives.
Inevitably, their loss puts a strain on their marriage. Amidst their daily challenges, Lilly encounters a starling which quite literally flies into her life. The feisty bird taunts and attacks her.
Lilly's character faces grief head-on. Jack, however, was staying at a mental health facility to treat his depression. It is almost as if one of them had the luxury to grieve openly, and the other did not.
One can sympathise how Jack blames himself for his daughter's death. He almost did not want to recover because he believed he had to serve his penance.
The tragedy, however, is left ambiguous which makes you wonder if his self-blame is legitimate or just self-sabotage.
All the while, Lilly had to face the world. The people around her offered their sympathies which seemed rote, perfunctory and fake. Moreover, her boss was absolutely blind to the fact that this woman had lost her child and was dealing with the same pain as her husband.
It was almost as if the world never gave Lilly a chance to grieve. She was expected to function for both of them.
Antithesis of grief
The movie somewhat presents two polarised versions of dealing with loss; while one is in some mental cave, the other attempts at braving the outside world. Albeit, neither of the ways is less painful nor more effective.
The cinematography of the movie perfectly reflected the summer time sadness.
There was no glamour in the way the characters dressed. There was no music, no real outburst of emotion.
Such mundaneness hinted at how the characters must have been all cried out. The lack of real and mature conversation between the couple also showed they did not have much to say to each other anymore.
Empty Nest Syndrome vs Starlings
Lilly, already behoved by the burden of being an 'empty nester', encountered one of the most territorial of the bird species, starlings.
It might seem ridiculous at first, funny too, perhaps. One starling considered Lilly a threat as it aimed to protect its nest full of unhatched eggs. One day, Lilly finds the nest, covered with collected scraps, including a tiny sock which belonged to her daughter.
It gives her a new perspective and motivates her to protect her own, as does the starling. But Lilly, being feisty as she was, won't really give the starling credit for this epiphany.
The uncanny symbolism of the bird, the namesake of the movie, is neither subtle nor arbitrary but can be open to the interpretation of viewers.
Lilly is a fighter. At this point, if she doesn't fight, who will?
So, she puts on a helmet, picks up a bat, and there may have been a bird feeder involved. You have to just go watch the movie to find out how this combination of armour plays out.
The starlings become the bane of Lilly's existence. Prompting the audience to think is Lilly defending herself against a bird who keeps attacking her or is her struggle symbolic and emblematic of accepting defeat in life, or in her marriage?