Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Timothy Olyphant
Director: Theodore Melfi
Running Time: 103 mins
The Starling is an American film about a woman undergoing a period of grief after the death of her baby daughter, and while her husband is resident at a mental health clinic, she finds herself locked in a peculiar rivalry with an assertive starling in her back garden.
A perfectly heartfelt drama about the grief process, The Starling combines moments of sweet, intimate humour and emotion with an oversight of the trials of dealing with trauma. However, despite a lovely lead performance from Melissa McCarthy, the film comes off as more sappy than genuine, and its regular use of very on-the-nose metaphor proves increasingly frustrating throughout.
All of that goes to say that The Starling isn’t an expertly-made drama. In fact, there are time when it borders on Hallmark levels of simplicity, and that’s a real shame, because the story at its heart is an important and touching one, it’s just portrayed in a really disappointing way.
The story starts off in the aftermath of the death of our leading lady’s daughter, while her husband finds himself in a mental health clinic after the fallout. Alone, the woman takes herself to sorting out her garden, only to find that an assertive starling is attempting to assert its dominance there.
This is where the metaphor for the grief process gets a little heavy-handed in my view. Though the ‘battles’ between McCarthy and the starling often strike up a few small laughs, her fractured relationship with the bird sets up a really predictable and one-dimensional metaphor for the grief process.
In tandem with advice from her vet-cum-therapist (played by Kevin Kline), she begins to go through the five stages of grief as her dynamic with the starling in her garden changes. The problem, however, is that the story of the grief process is laid out for you early on by Kline, and that really undoes the journey that you should be going on with McCarthy, learning to live with grief, and by extension, the starling.
As such, The Starling ultimately proves a disappointing watch, and despite having its heart entirely in the right place, it could certainly have done more to use its narrative subtext to bring out its main drama and themes. It’s a perfectly lovely movie, but it’s one that never manages to deliver an emotionally captivating story. So, that’s why I’m giving The Starling a 6.5 overall.