Title: The Book of Birdie
Director: Elizabeth E. Schuch
Starring: Ilirida Memedovski, Suzan Crowley, Kitty Fenn, Kymberly Mellen
Runtime: 1hr 31min
What It Is: In this fantasy horror, a strange and quiet girl named Birdie (Memedovski) is sent to a small convent operating on its last legs. There, she is taught to follow the word of God by the nuns that populate the convent, possibly to someday make her vows. Soon after her arrival, a bloody event leaves Birdie convinced she is blessed directly by the entities she worships as she also comes to fall in love with Julia (Fenn), a faithless girl that frequents the convent.
What We Think: This little indie left me surprised–it may not you, but it did me. Memedovski, sure to be a star, is wonderful in the role of Birdie, looking like a doe-eyed Emily the Strange. Through her subtle performance, she is able to translate a range emotion in order to paint the observant, persistent optimism of this mysterious character: a picture of curious youth struggling to come to terms with who she is. Much like this lovely and (personally) endlessly watchable protagonist, film as a whole is odd and a little innocently twisted. It is delightfully and quietly strange. The spooky and gothic feel is not too overdone/overbearing, the plot dark and intriguing as we’re fed one piece of Birdie’s story one bit at a time, though the pacing can tend to be a bit slow. While certain aspects of the style may be a bit confusing or off-putting (with comic-book-inspired animated bits representing Birdie’s mindset intercutting the action through the film), I believe it all fits together quite logically in that it combines a childlike outlook with dark delusions of religious obsession. The cinematography and writing alluring, sharp, and involved, the film is a pretty frame to an admirable, even nostalgic character.
Our Grade: B-, Definitely not to everyone’s tastes and doesn’t set out to be a crowd-pleaser. This movie doesn’t make the easy choices: that, I find respectable. Though the story tends to slow down in certain parts and is predictable, and certain technical components (such as sound) feel off or underdeveloped, this film is a daring and well-done release on part of production company Melancholy Star. I look forward to what they and director Elizabeth E. Schuch come out with next. Every now and then, I find a film that surprises me: this one ends up being much more psychological than you realize. It’s a sweet character study that packs an emotional punch and is a step forward in female-driven independent cinema.