Tribeca Breakdown: Bluebird
on 2013-04-20 16:17
Lesley (Amy Morton, “Up in the Air”, “Boss”) is a school bus driver in a Maine logging town who while doing her final check of the bus before calling it a day is distracted by a rare blue bird. The next morning she finds out that she failed to see a child named Owen who had fallen asleep in the back of the bus, and is now unconscious from hypothermia. The boy’s mother Marla (Louisa Krause) had no idea however because she spent the night drinking, taking a pill (anti-depressant?), and falling asleep in the bathtub. She won’t be winning mother of the year. She had the kid when she was 17 and only because her mother (Margo Martindale) was too religious to let her get an abortion. Lesley’s logger husband Rich (John Slattery, “Mad Men”) meanwhile is forced to try to make ends meet while his wife is out so that an investigation can be conducted into her negligence.
“Bluebird” revels in its blue collar authenticity. Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes is definitely the star here. The shots of logging and snowy small town setting evoke a grinding work-a-day world where men are either bartenders or work with their hands and women are either bus drivers, home-makers, or cashiers. The performances also add to this slice of life tale, which is thin on plot but high on sadness. Director-screenwriter Lance Edmands introduce many characters here (there’s also Lesley’s daughter Paula, Paula’s boyfriend, Marla’s boyfriend, and a woman from Rich’s past) and for a 90 minute movie that tries to detail the strain this event has put on everyone, it does feel like a few of these characters are given short shrift, almost to the point of complete irrelevancy.
But that said, the performances really add to the scenery and make these characters effective enough to work. Morton is fantastic as a mother shell-shocked with grief over her own carelessness, while Krause plays a character who has seemingly lived with severe depression for so long that the carelessness doesn’t even bother her. She’s a picture of detachment, hopelessness, and irresponsibility. Slattery trades in his well-made suits on “Mad Men” for jeans, john deere cap, and plaid shirts with vest and he adds to the toughness around the edges to this character perfectly. And Martindale, a star who has risen ever higher since her role on the TV show “Justified”, as the worried grandmother of Owen and the one in most disbelief over what Marla has become, is very moving.
Not all of “Bluebird” works but there is enough here to forgive it its more glaring flaws and allow these actors and this scenery to make us feel the heart-break of this situation.