Songbird, for those of you who don’t know, is about a group of various individuals living amid a pandemic some time in a futuristic world. Los Angeles is in a full lockdown, in which nobody can leave their homes without getting shot on the spot, aside from a handful of people who have something called an “immunity bracelet”. The virus COVID-23 is rampant, and this time, it’s also airborne. Those who are infected with the virus are taken to a space called the “Q-Zone”, presumably standing for quarantine zone, which resembles very much like a concentration camp atmosphere. It’s noted in the film that those who go in pretty much never come out.
The story follows a few different families and the struggles they are facing with the pandemic, but focuses mainly on the love story between Nico (KJ Apa) and Sara (Sofia Carson). Sara is in lockdown with her grandmother, but Nico somehow has one of the very rare immunity bracelets and is working as a delivery boy in the outside world. They keep their relationship afloat with the hope that one day they will be able to be together and escape the city (and seemingly an abundance of FaceTime calls). All their plans turn upside down when Sara’s grandmother gets the virus, and the Department of Sanitation comes to their house to take them away to the Q-Zone.
I won’t lie, I struggled for quite a while on what to write about Songbird. On one hand, the story was intriguing. The actors did a pretty good job overall, and it isn’t outrightly a bad movie. I would even go as far as to say I kind of enjoyed it, to a certain degree. That being said, I couldn’t help this nagging feeling I had about why on earth anybody (let alone the multiple people it took to give this project the green light) felt that this was an appropriate movie to release given the current climate of the world. Watching it was almost a little too close to home, despite the fact that they tried to change it just enough to get away with a story about a pandemic in the midst of a pandemic. It felt like Adam Mason and Simon Boyes sat down to take all of the most horrifying aspects of COVID and amplify them, make the technology better, and throw them together to make a movie. Given the rising death rate and infection rate that we are currently seeing across the world with COVID-19, it feels tone-deaf to be releasing a film based on fear of the very thing that is currently affecting the entire planet. I wish that this movie had been released at a different time – a few years prior, or a few years down the road would have made all the difference. When 9/11 happened, out of respect for those affected, movies released refrained from showing the WTC on the skyline. It wasn’t noticeable to everybody, but I’m sure for the families and people who were affected, it was nice to not have their pain shoved in their faces at every given moment. For some reason, that respect for the people affected by COVID isn’t being addressed in the same regard. Instead, it’s being profited off of and that’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me.
That being said, it wouldn’t be fair to not discuss parts of the film for what they are. The plot line, although inappropriate right now, is interesting. The concept of exploring how far we’d go for our loved ones is not a new thought, but given that we have all now experienced the severity of lockdown and a global pandemic, it does feel more relatable. I like the fact that the movie is a love story, but it’s not solely about romantic love. It follows the love of their relationships, of friends, of family, and the intensity of caring about other people who may not be able to survive on their own. The actors in the film actually did a pretty good job despite the fact that the script is a bit cheesy (as you’d honestly expect from any film that has Michael Bay’s name attached to it). KJ Apa, best known for Riverdale, was surprisingly good in the role as Nico. I didn’t have exceptionally high expectations, however I was pleasantly surprised with his range. I won’t say he’s going to be nominated for an Oscar, but he did a good job given the scope of the role and the film itself. Sofia Carson also did a great job as Sara, particularly in times where she is caring for her grandmother. Watching the film, you could feel how heartbroken she was watching somebody she loved become ill. The fear, the panic, all while balancing a calm demeanour for someone you love takes a lot of strength, and I think she did a great job at portraying that. The film also stars a few other familiar faces, most notably Demi Moore as Piper Griffen, a mom caring for her ilmmuno-compromised daughter. Alexandra Daddario and Craig Robinson also are in the film, albeit are more side-characters than main stars. Everybody did a good job holding up the film, and I would even go as far as to say they are probably one of the only reasons I enjoyed it.
The imagery in the movie did a good job at using very ominous shots to make you feel the isolation and panic that’s occurring, but whether that’s the cinematography or the reality of the world… who knows at this point. The technology they have is a fun addition, but honestly doesn’t feel so far fetched that it seems like something that couldn’t be plausible in the next century. It walks the line of realistic and futuristic, which honestly adds to the fact that it hits a little too close to home. There’s also something to be said about the aggressiveness of the military presence, and all the hazmat suits that really add to the feeling of restlessness throughout the film. You don’t feel like they are people doing their job, you feel like they’re the villains – and while that’s up for debate in the real world, it’s not in this movie. You already hate them before they even get much screen time. As the movie goes on, you realize the government is something to be feared, not respected.
Overall, honestly and truly, I don’t know if you should see this movie. I don’t even know if I would see this movie again. It’s one of those true “take it or leave it” scenarios, but I will say for sure if you are anxious about living in a pandemic world, you might wanna sit this one out for a while. It’s worth a watch, but maybe at some point in the future when we’re safely settled in with our loved ones again. I could see enjoying it more at a time when I can look back knowing COVID is no longer a current threat to our global safety.