Songbird review: a bad omen for pandemic films

Charlie Pugh reviews the latest pandemic film that doesn't quite take flight

Charlie Pugh
15th February 2021

This review contains spoilers

The problem with writing a film about a pandemic is that very few people enjoy being in a pandemic. For a film with a distinct lack of vision, this is a death blow.

Despite being produced by Michael Bay, Songbird is no escapist cinematic thriller: the stakes, cast, and setting are all too small. The refusal to engage with any wider world-building or the power structures means that the film fails as a dystopian teen love story. One would assume that this leaves us as a romance and drama merely set in the context of the pandemic, but the film never commits.

Image credit: IMDb

A large part of the problem stems from the trailer. I watched it, and expected a Micheal Bay-produced film full of explosions and gunfights: an action film about Covid. Unfortunately, the entire first half of the film is mostly people talking to each other on the phone. The only glimmer of action is a cop-out: just as the 'Covid Stormtroopers' get ready to storm Sara's apartment, their boss mocks for getting the wrong door. This is characteristic of the rest of the film. It has its gimmick, it has high production, an intense soundtrack and good actors, but never any substance. The thin plot needs an interesting premise, but the gimmicky premise needs an interesting plot.

Breaking lockdown kills people, but Songbird portrays it as an act of ultimate heroism and true love

This goes without saying how problematic the film is. While no one watches the film and sees it as truth, the conspiratorial and practically anti-medicine messages are thematically reinforced. Australia and New Zealand have shown just how effective a strict and doctor-driven lockdown can be at combatting Coronavirus, and portraying the government as both collapsed and ruled by ruthless serial killers and a legion of faceless hazmat soldiers is not only nonsensical but damaging. Breaking lockdown kills people, but Songbird portrays it as an act of ultimate heroism and true love (and don't even get me started on how it glorifies parasocial relationships with streamers).

If this film was about anything else, I might be happy just watching it as filler; I've enjoyed far worse. Unfortunately, the film is about a pandemic, and Songbird did very little for me except make me anxious and feel depressed. The stakes never landed, and the plot did little to interest me. So as well as being tone-deaf and problematic, Songbird committed the ultimate movie sin: it's boring.

Rating: 2/5

Featured image credit: IMDb

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