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FILM REVIEW: Blackbird

Categories: Movies

A film that made waves when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, Blackbird arrives amid a flood of stories about teen bullying, making the movie's insights all the more relevant.

From director-writer Jason Buxton, Blackbird is powerful, surprising film about bullies, teen killers and a young man caught in a cycle of fear and isolation.

Connor Jessup, a Canadian actor on the rise, is Sean: an outcast and a Goth-styled loner who sticks out at school in his studded leather jacket and Siouxsie and the Banshees hairstyle. There's a girl — Deanna (Alexia Fast) — who likes him, but only when the jocks aren't looking. Sean empties his frustrations into a story of bloody revenge. Soon, there are police sirens flashing outside his home, he's dragged into court and treated as the next Columbine killer.

BlackbirdConnor Jessup and Alexia Fast appear in a scene from Jason Buxton's drama Blackbird. (A71 Entertainment Inc.)

Blackbird might sound like a sad cliché of our times, but Buxton has a close, almost claustrophobic approach that puts us in Sean's shoes as he gets shuffled from trial to a youth detention centre, where he faces a new series of threats. There, Alex Ozerov over-compensates as the tough-talking Trevor. He first appears like a transfer from Brooklyn, but even his bravado eventually fades.

Toronto-based Jessup, also seen in the Falling Skies TV series, keeps Sean's rage and frustration on a low simmer. There's no lack of anger there, but there's also a sense of vulnerability. Sparse sound design adds to the mood, forcing us to listen with him as he strains to hear the footfalls of his tormentors.

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Blackbird isn't quite the film you expect — and that's its strength. The film begins in a familiar high school milieu, but in the end, you're left with the tale of a young man forced to meet threats of violence on his own terms.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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