Blackbird Parent Guide
This is a well made film about assisted suicide. Unfortunately, it's also one-sided.
Parent Movie Review
Autumn looks particularly beautiful at Lily and Paul’s (Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill) seaside home where their extended family has been invited for the weekend.
First to arrive is their eldest daughter Jennifer (Kate Winslet), a bit of a fussbudget, with her browbeaten husband Michael (Rainn Wilson) and their timid teenaged son Jonathan (Anson Boon). Next is Lily’s long-time best friend and frequent family tagalong Liz (Lindsay Duncan). And last, the couple’s prodigal child Anna (Mia Wasikowska) accompanied by her lesbian lover Chris (Bex Taylor-Klaus).
It’s an awkward ensemble at the best of times – and this get-together is taking place at anything but the best of times.
The reason the clan has been gathered is to bid farewell to Lily who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Although the disease has already weakened her body, it has not diminished her strong spirit. Not content to watch her health slowly decline, Lily has determined to take control. Her plan is to say her goodbyes at this final visit, then end her life by having her physician husband administer a lethal dose of medication. Everyone present is aware of her intentions. They also know the plan is illegal, so measures will need to be taken to protect Paul from possible prosecution.
A remake of the 2014 Danish film Silent Heart(both written byChristian Torpe), the movie presents the perfect scenario to justify euthanasia. Over the course of the script, each of the characters raise the kinds of objections that are usually presented when discussing this controversial topic. How do we know the prognosis is correct? What if we want more time with the ill person? Perhaps someone has ulterior motives for hurrying the process? And especially: Shouldn’t the dying person be the one to make the choice?
In this case, Lily smooths over the rough spots with her friends and family by distracting them with crass humor (sexual terms, expletives and inuendo are frequently heard), offering ample alcohol (which is drunk throughout the movie) and sharing her medical marijuana (even with her under-aged grandson). The screenplay builds to several sentimental scenes where parting gifts and reconciliatory speeches are given. And just in case that doesn’t win over the audience, Lily’s character delivers a monologue demanding the right to choose her own destiny.
Not as well represented are the possible negative consequences of this irreversible decision. Even though Jonathan quips, “Grandpa is going to murder Grandma,” the seriousness of the situation and the probable repercussions for those who assist in this killing are glossed over. Ignored as well are the feelings of self-doubt and guilt that may be experienced by the accomplices after the deed. Some may argue that assisted suicide equates to a selfish act to which everyone else must selflessly acquiesce regardless of their feelings: this perspective is not considered. Neither are advances in palliative care or religious or philosophical credos about finding meaning in suffering. Beliefs in God or life after death are never mentioned. Nor are the possible abuses (the slippery slope) that could occur with the legalization of euthanasia.
Starring a stellar and capable cast, Blackbird presents a persuasive case for its cause. Parents should be aware of the one-sided nature of its narrative when discussing this hot-button issue with their children.Directed by Roger Michell. Starring Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Sam Neill, Mia Wasilkowska. Running time: 97 minutes. Theatrical release September 18, 2020. Updated September 22, 2020
Watch the trailer for Blackbird
Rating & Content Info
Why is Blackbird rated R? Blackbird is rated R by the MPAA for language, some drug use and brief sexual material
Violence: Blackbird presents a one-sided argument for euthanasia. Characters conspire together to administer a lethal overdose to a loved one who wants to die. All involved understand this is illegal. Characters discuss ways to prevent the person who will assist in this suicide from facing legal consequences. Later, a character is depicted drinking the medication given to her by her husband. Others witness this event. Another character describes a suicide attempt – this is met with both sympathy and contempt by others. Characters argue with one another and verbally attempt to control the behaviors of others.
Sexual Content: Characters talk about a turbulent lesbian relationship. Other romantic relationships and free love are discussed. A woman wears revealing clothing. A married couple kiss passionately and remove each other’s clothing – sexual relations are implied. A sexual stimulator is given as a gag gift. Women chuckle about their attempt to have a sexual relationship with each other. An adulterous relationship is discussed. A married man kisses a woman he is not married to. Parents discuss the conception of their children with their adult children. Sexual jokes, crass slang and innuendo are heard. A woman’s head and shoulders are seen when she is showering.
Profanity: A strong sexual expletive is used about 20 times. Also frequently heard are 11 scatological terms, assorted mild and moderate profanities and seven terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcohol is drunk throughout the film for socialization and to escape the seriousness of the situation. Characters talk about experimenting with and abusing illegal substances. Characters are seen smoking tobacco and marijuana. One extended scene shows the family sharing a joint that was intended for medical use – the underaged grandson also participates. Prescription drugs are shown and discussed. A character talks about ordering a powerful drug on-line. A character offers a lethal dose of medication to another character. She is shown drinking it in the presence of other family members.
Page last updated September 22, 2020
Blackbird Parents' Guide
What does “dying with dignity” mean to you?
If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, would you be tempted to end your own life? Why or why not? Would you feel differently if the dying persons was a loved one instead? Do you think there can be a “greater purpose” to suffering?
What kind of profound advice about life does Lily have to share with her grandson? Do you think her view of life has an influence on how she feels about death?
If Lily is so determined to end her life, why does she want her husband to administer the lethal medication? Why doesn’t she just overdose herself. What repercussions might her husband face because of his involvement? What consequences could befall her other family members? Why do you think she doesn’t consider suicide?
Related home video titles:
Based on a true story, Shadowlands depicts a very different reaction to news of a terminal illness. The issue of prolonging life with machines is covered in Breathe, which is based on a true story. Other movies about facing the possibility of death include Kiss and Cry, I Still Believe and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl.