How entertaining? ★★☆☆☆
Thought provoking? ★★★☆☆
27 May 2012
This article is a review of NIGHTBIRDS.
“Do you always go around buying strange men cups of tea?” Dink (Berwick Kaler) to Dee (Julie Shaw)
NIGHTBIRDS is getting a Blu-ray release after being restored and over-seen by the British Film Institute and DRIVE director Nicolas Winding Refn. Written, directed and photographed by Andy Milligan, it opens with a man walking, shot in grainy black and white. He throws up. A woman comes to his aid. His name is Donald, but prefers Dink. She is Delores but prefers Dee. It turns out Dink is homeless, having run away from an overbearing mother. In his 20s, Dink’s naivety makes him seem teenage. In contrast, Dee is predatory, manipulative and brittle. The former is an open book, while the latter is mysterious and sinister. Dee offers Dink to stay with her in a room that she impliedly pays for by sexual favours to the landlord. Dee is a complex character, clearly hazardous to be around, but just one deftly portrayed phone call suggests hints to her formation.
A relationship between the two Ds grows, swinging sharply between passion and acrimony. Control is a theme explored, along with ideas of desperation. A price is extracted for loneliness, a commonality that virtually every speaking character has. An added motif is the friction between generations. The unusual passing of time compounds the foreboding tone.
I find NIGHTBIRDS a difficult film to rate, the acting is awful, the dialogue cringeworthy, and the shot selection cack-handed; however, there are many social and personality ideas packed into the 82 minute runtime. Ultimately a gripping subtext, tied to a clumsily told and performed narrative, is not enough to recommend whole-heartedly. Compare and contrast DEEP END, also on the BFI Flipside label, which deals in similar concerns consummately.