Released: 20th May
Seen: 20th May
When a disaster happens, it’s only natural for it to somehow end up being a part of people’s art. People process things in different ways and that includes filmmakers. With this deadly pandemic spreading worldwide it’s only natural that people would work it into the art they were making. TV shows like 9-1-1 have been working covid into the background of their stories, movies like Host have used the lockdown as an element of the story. Key word in that sentence is “ELEMENT”, what would happen if someone made an entire film that was just “What if the current pandemic… but worse?”… that person would be making Songbird and I would not like them very much.
Songbird imagines a 2024 where the coronavirus has mutated into Covid-23 which is totally airborne and will kill almost anyone who gets it within 48 hours. In this world you can only leave the house if you have an immunity bracelet which is only given to people who somehow survived this illness and gained a natural immunity. Those people who are immune tend to be the ones doing all the work, including our main character who is a delivery boy named Nico Price (KJ Apa).
Nico alternates between his regular route delivering and going by his girlfriend’s apartment. Nico’s girlfriend, Sara Garcia (Sofia Carson) lives with her grandmother in an apartment that they can’t leave because there’s a permanent lockdown for those who aren’t immune. Because Nico would very much like to have some human touch with this girl who he has little actual chemistry with, he decides to find her a counterfeit immunity bracelet so he could take a theoretically sick person out of her home and on the road where, again, the air is toxic. Oh, and there’s a subplot with the people who make the bracelets, a woman who is having an affair with one of those people and a disabled veteran but I’ve hit the wall labelled “Fucks to give” and I have no more left in me to describe those subplots.
Songbird is a film full of problems and the first is simply bad timing. Releasing a film about the pandemic being worse while the pandemic was literally getting worse really makes this film feel tasteless. It finished shooting around August, by that point the virus had already mutated three times and lockdowns had become more common around the world so we don’t really need this tasteless cashing in on current tragedy. There’s just something kind of disgusting about a film that says “Hey, what if even more people died from this illness and it was somehow even more contagious?”, it’d be like making a film where a boat holding 2 million people hit 3 icebergs and exploded and releasing that film while the Titanic was still sinking… except that film might be interesting, this isn’t.
Songbird’s biggest sin is that it’s boring. In a shocking twist, a “Romeo and Juliet” story set during a pandemic is not something anyone should really care about, especially when the leads have no chemistry of any kind. It’s certainly trying to convince me that they have chemistry, they have cute dates and emotional talks but it just falls flat. Throw on top of that the fact that our hero is essentially one of those assholes who made fake disability cards to try and get out of wearing masks and there’s nothing to like about them.
Among this blandly offensive YA romance novel of a film there are a few things that’re mildly enjoyable… those things are Demi Moore, who is clearly phoning it in but even when Demi Moore phones it in she’s better than most other things, and whatever costume designer decided to put KJ Apa in what is essentially a crop top for the majority of the film. Of course that second thing I could get by watching Riverdale and probably enjoy the silliness going on more but at least it was something to look at other than the drab visuals that Songbird inflicted on me.
Oh god, I almost forgot about how bad Songbird looks. Granted I don’t expect much since they shot this in about 2 weeks during a pandemic and probably didn’t even have a full sized crew but god damn this film is so drab and lifeless to look at. A whole mess of beige, ugly warehouses and dirt all shot from the worst angles that makes everything look bland. It’s not even interestingly bad, like one might expect in a movie that’s clearly going for an apocalyptic vibe but just kinda dull with some very weird framing choices that don’t help what little story there was to tell.
Songbird started with a bad idea and then did nothing interesting with it. It doesn’t push us to work together to beat this thing, it doesn’t offer hope, it doesn’t even comment on the failure of governments to contain this thing. Instead it decides to make heroes out of assholes who lie in order to break quarantine, makes villains out of those just trying to contain a deadly pandemic and makes the audience wonder why the hell this even exists. It doesn’t offer anything of value, no interesting scenes or characters or ideas that might justify its existence. It’s a bad film made for cynical reasons and will only look worse with every passing death from this illness.