Updated: Mar 3
A grief-stricken widow calls on all the powers that be, just to see her late husband one last time.
Nothing quite prepares you for losing a loved one, even when you know it’s coming. And despite how sadly common this eventuality is, we never can seem to figure out the right way to handle it, especially when it happens to somebody else. Despite how often it happens, loss and grief continues to be an experience that so many of us endure in isolation, carrying a distinct loneliness that no one else can understand. The platitudes and attempts to console, while appreciated do nothing to ebb the tides of grief or numb the searing pain of simply wanting your loved one back…even just one last time.
Writer and director Justin Robinson expertly captures all of this in the most understated and yet inexplicably powerful way possible. Acknowledging that everyone’s pain is unique, he somehow manages to encapsulate the commonalities in this experience without sacrificing the unique pain of his protagonist, Agnes (played masterfully by Pepi Steiff). Agnes endures uncomfortable condolences, bad advice, casseroles with “stage 4 spinach cancer” even fraudulent opportunists. All the while trying to figure out how to live alone.
The subtlety of Agnes’ quiet struggle is what really gives the film its weight. She rails against time pushing her forward while her goal of seeing her husband Harold (Fred Motley) one last time keeps pushing her back. Despite the frustration that this causes, Agnes never breaks down or lashes out (undeservedly) but her pain is plain for all to see.
Her battle to cope with bereavement is not all that endears us to her character. The subject matter hits with that much more impact because Agnes is genuinely likeable. Even in the depths of grief, Agnes shows the kind of sharp wit and guile that makes her feel like someone that would be fun to spend time with. Scenes where she is able to enjoy an honest laugh with a friend about her departed husband, helps to give us a glimpse into a well-rounded person instead of simply presenting a character in emotional turmoil.
Robinson’s writing handles this subject matter and Agnes as a character with a skill and sensitivity that eludes many filmmakers. Dialogue feels completely natural and often unceremoniously profound. Robinson also allows us the time we need to settle into a scene, but does not let the film drag, bringing in Snowbirds at a reasonable 11 minutes. The pace allows us to feel as though we have gone on a real journey with Agnes, filling each shot with such detail that the story is told visually, cut by well-timed cut.
This is very much a performance-driven piece, but the beautifully composed visuals elevate the story from a singular journey to a shared experience. Far from being the gloomy and sullen experience that it quite easily could have been, instead Snowbirds is very much a story about love, but not a love cut short but a love that transcends death itself.
Studio: Justin Robinson | Year: 2020 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 11 Mins | Suitability: Mature
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