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Review: Songbird (2020)

Songbird (2020)

Directed by: Adam Mason

Premise: In 2024 the world is paralyzed by a deadly pandemic. A bike courier who is immune to the virus (K.J. Apa) romances a young woman (Sofia Carson) whose mother is ill. He races to acquire an immunity pass before his girlfriend is sent to a quarantine camp.  

What Works: Although Songbird is an original story (meaning it isn’t adapted from a preexisting intellectual property), this film fits neatly within the dystopian young adult genre. It has elements of apocalyptic adventures like The Hunger Games and teen illness dramas like Everything, Everything and Songbird ought to appeal to the young adult audience. This is primarily a love story of young people fighting to be together despite the world keeping them apart and actors K.J. Apa and Sofia Carson are an agreeable couple. The premise is inherently challenging because Apa and Carson’s characters can never actually share the same physical space. Nearly all of their interactions occur through screens but the actors and the filmmakers are nevertheless able to create an impression of intimacy between these two lovers.

What Doesn’t: Songbird exploits the COVID-19 crisis. The ethics and taste of that choice are debatable but what makes it really egregious is the generic nature of this film. Songbird’s doomsday scenario is a fictionalized extension of a very real crisis but the filmmakers don’t use it to reveal anything interesting or relevant about life in a pandemic. This is a contagion movie conceived, shot, and released in the middle of a pandemic and yet the filmmakers did not think through the logistics of their premise and the world building is shoddy. In the pandemic of Songbird, the government has instituted a strict lockdown in which only the immune are allowed to leave their homes. Everyone else has been confined to their homes for months, maybe years. That creates all sorts of practical questions like how citizens are able to provide basics for themselves like food. Anyone who lived through the COVID-19 pandemic (which is everyone alive to see Songbird at the time it was released) will understand how this kind of draconian shutdown is impossible. Not that the filmmakers pay much attention to credibility or continuity. It’s established that the lockdown is enforced by martial law but non-immune characters travel around town without getting caught. Songbird’s eighty-six minute running time is crowded with several subplots including a wealthy couple (Demi Moore and Bradley Whitford) manufacturing counterfeit immunity bracelets and a wheelchair bound drone operator (Paul Walter Hauser) who strikes up a relationship with a cam model (Alexandra Daddario). These subplots are not convincing nor do they have the time and space to make a dramatic impact. The conclusion of Songbird is dumb and largely meaningless. A late reveal undermines the whole premise and the picture ends without really changing the two lovers’ circumstances.

DVD extras: Commentary track, deleted scenes, featuretes, and a music video.

Bottom Line: Songbird is a dumb ploy to cash in on the pandemic. If this is supposed to be socially relevant, the movie fails and as an apocalyptic adventure Songbird is flat and unimaginative.

Episode: #844 (March 21, 2021)