'The Starling' deals with the sensitive subject of loss in a unique way and stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd.
Loss is a profound feeling that everyone has experienced at some point. The 2021 comedy-drama film, The Starling, deals with this sensitive subject in a unique way. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd, the film has received mixed reviews from critics and the audience. It seems to be a hit or miss when it comes to how it has been received by viewers. The heartwarming tale of how a couple deals with the loss of their child is given a metaphorical spin in The Starling.
The film was directed by Theodore Melfi and the script was written by Matt Harris. You can stream it on Netflix. It premiered at 2021's Toronto International Film Festival and it seemed McCarthy could even potentially stand a chance to win the Best Actress Award for her performance. But the film did not seem to match the buzz. Here is a complete breakdown of the much-anticipated film, including spoilers.
The movie begins with Lilly (McCarthy) and Jack Maynard (O’Dowd) painting a room, preparing for the birth of their daughter. The couple is happy and making plans for their child and how she will grow up to be. But the future does not go as planned at all. Lilly, unfortunately, loses her child from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and things take a turn for the worse for the husband and wife. Lilly and Jack's relationship goes through a rocky patch.
We then see Lilly again but a few years later. The tragedy has clearly taken a toll on her. She is constantly picked on by her manager (Timothy Olyphant) at the supermarket where she works. She is distracted at work and her manager subtly brings up her loss as the cause of her lack of focus. Lilly then goes to the counseling center, where her husband Jack lives after being diagnosed with suicidal depression. They attend a counseling session to try and communicate with each other but are unable to do so. Their counselor notices how Lilly is struggling with the loss and refers her to a therapist friend of hers, Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline.) The therapist had by then changed his career stream and was now a veterinarian but helps Lilly come to terms with her struggles anyway.
Back home, Lilly decides to cope with her loss by taking up gardening. But her plans are foiled by a bird in her garden that attacks her constantly. She decides to ask Dr. Larry for help to get rid of the bird. In the process, she ends up sharing the burdens of her loss with the doctor. As a culmination of all the work she does with herself, she tries to forge the connection with Jack again but fails. He also asks her not to come back to visit him after she reveals that she got rid of their daughter's belongings in an attempt to move on. Lilly is upset and in her anger throws a stone at the bird in her garden. It ends up hitting the bird and injuring it gravely.
Larry tells her that he would do his best to save the bird's life but can't guarantee anything. Lilly goes home and finds that the bird had a nest with two chicks. This explains the bird's behavior as a defense to protect its babies.
As Lilly has been occupied with the troublesome bird, Jack is also trying to make progress. He decides to face his grief and realizes that he had been blaming himself for the death of their daughter. He also realizes that he had not treated his grieving wife as he should have and was not there for her when she needed him the most. Jack decides to make more of an effort and reconnect with his wife.
The film comes to a close as Lilly and Jack come out of their house in protective gear, to the garden to look at the starling bird that has now been nurtured to health by Larry. The bird is joined by its mate and the nest is full. The birds promptly attack Lilly and Jack.
The titular starling bird is a metaphor for Lilly's life. She sees the similarity between her own life and that of the starling, a bird that Larry explains is headstrong and mates for life and cannot exist without their partner. She forms an emotional connection with the bird when she sees her daughter's sock in the nest with the chicks. The couple walking out in their protective gear is a way of them coming to terms with trying to co-exist with the bird as much as they try to with the loss of their daughter.