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TIFF 2021: “The Starling”


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Each person has their own way of coping with the loss of a child. In fact, even for myself, as I write this, I can admit it is a thought I would rather write about than experiencing it first-hand. This is why films like “The Starling” works. It knows where to hit, how to console or find better words to describe what we sometimes fail to find in real life.

Lily (Melissa McCarthy) is a very strong woman. In fact, she somehow manages to hide her true feelings, anxiety, depression, or grief so deep, it is even hard for her to dig out. Therefore, when a newborn child of her dies, her husband Jack (Chris O`Dowd) externally goes through a much longer and difficult stage of loss than Lily herself. Both, of course, have suffered due to the passing of their child. While the grief sends Jack to a psychiatric clinic, Lily is left alone to deal with her pain.

During group therapy, both Lily and Jack performed really bad, forcing the counselor to suggest Lily she finds a therapist who can help her find a way to move on. The woman suggests Larry (Kevin Kline), who is a vet, but a former therapist. The two, at first, do not find common ground, but shortly after, Larry realizes that if he doesn’t help Lily, she may move to the last stage of grief, which is depression. And living alone can increase its chances at an alarming rate.

First of all, Melissa McCarthy has always been more effective as a dramatic actress than a comedian. Of course, it’s always a delight watching her work, but not quite when laughter is generated through constant swearing. With this film, McCarthy shows that she can be different, portray characters of any kind, and if necessary, she can use better vocabulary that can please viewers like myself.

Screenplay by Matt Harris and directed by Theodore Melfi, “The Starling” once again reminds us how difficult it is to lose a loved one. Even though the screenplay could get a bit deeper in terms of describing Lily and Jack’s dynamic, Harris separates them to see how the couple can deal with the mourning process apart from each other. To look at it from that angle, “The Starling” works perfectly. With some funny scenes included, it tries to lighten the situation, making it a mild drama without a lot of tears. That again is because of the writer’s choice not to play with the emotions of its audience which, in a way, is a good thing.

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