The Singing Bird Will Come


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Singing Bird Will Come
"The film falls at every hurdle."

"Keep a green tree in your heart and the singing bird will come," goes the line. Lauren (Gillian Harker) reflects on it as she looks for comfort. Her mother has died recently, her relationship has ended and she's been forced to return to her home town, one of those pretty little English places that charm the tourists but where any local with ambition is despised. There she has found her father drinking too much, her younger brother refusing to communicate and no job available except a cleaning position in the local restaurant. This she deals with patiently, pragmatically. But seeing a ghost - now that's a bit much.

Ostensibly a mystery story hinging on our heroine's curiosity about said ghost, The Singing Bird Will Come falls at the first hurdle by being achingly obvious - there are Scooby Doo episodes where it will take you longer to figure out the plot. In order for Lauren's behaviour to be credible within this context, we have to believe she's pretty dim - sufficiently so that when a sleazy older man tells her she's charming and says he has a book she can borrow, for instance, she actually goes to his house - but even then, credulity is stretched as she wanders into one perilous situation after another with no hint of a plan. It's a particular shame as the film seems to be trying to create a strong female character and foreground female talent - for which it should be commended - but it ends up relying on the regressive Medieval notion that a woman can never successfully overcome a man unless she draws on supernatural aid.

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The presentation of the supernatural here is derivative but not too bad. Director Ross-McNamee has the sense to understand that less is more and early shots of a dark figure lurking in the background, whilst not exactly scary, do give the film the desired sinister edge. The atmosphere of the town is well captured visually, though the crude characters populating it are rather more problematic. Lauren faces repeated attempts at ridicule from women she grew up with. The trouble is that these are just as tedious on film as they are in real life, and they function merely as padding, with no discernible impact on her character. A sex scene is shoehorned in to similar effect, yet no time is taken to provide red herrings or to develop any character other than Lauren.

Perhaps this is a mercy. Harker, despite poor direction and a total lack of chemistry with any of the other actors, works hard with what she's got and generally manages to convince. The acting in the other major roles is uniformly dreadful, with leaden pauses between each speaker's lines making it even worse. This is complemented by really bad sound work. The film was made on a very low budget and sound is something that tends to suffer in that situation, but in this case filler sound has been added to some scenes with the effect of making them still rougher. With flat interior lighting, an intrusive score and a script weighed down by exposition, the film falls at every hurdle, even before we get to the clumsy hallucinatory/supernatural scenes that ladle on sentiment and sap tension just when it's most needed.

Putting any kind of feature film together on a tiny budget is an achievement, but this one is best looked on as a learning experience for cast and crew. It's difficult to imagine who else could benefit from watching it.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2015
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The Singing Bird Will Come packshot
A young woman working as a cleaner in a small town restaurant encounters a ghost.

Director: Iain Ross-McNamee

Writer: Iain Ross-McNamee

Starring: Gillian Harker, Charles O'Neill, Laura Wilson, Aaron Jeffcoate

Year: 2015

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: UK


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