Earthquake Bird (2019) – Review, Summary (with Spoilers)

53.93% (3)

Earthquake Bird is a slow-moving psychological drama that focuses on the emotion of guilt to drive its leads breakdown.

Directed By Wash Westmoreland
Written By Wash Westmoreland
Date Released (Netflix) 11/15/2019
Genre(s) Drama
Noted Cast
Lucy Alicia Vikander
Bob Jack Huston
Natsuko Kiki Sukezane
Teiji Naoki Kobayashi
Ms. Katoh Akiko Iwase
Lily Riley Keough

Plot Summary/ Review

In 1989 Tokyo, we are introduced to Lucy. She is a transplant from Sweden, who has been in Japan for 5 years, and since she was 11, planned to live there. Why? Well, let’s just say the way life was growing up made her desire to uproot her life and move somewhere that makes it so she can feel isolated. Especially considering a single phone call could cost over $100 for 20 minutes, and mail takes almost 8 days to get there.

However, while she has long abandoned her father and brothers, she isn’t alone. She has a friend in Bob, her co-worker, at the translation firm she works at, Natsuko, and then meets Teiji on the street. Their friendship blossoms into a relationship, and as that happens, Bob introduced Lily into Lucy’s life. This leads to Lucy having to confront some of the feelings she was running away from and eventually finding herself confronted by police after something happens to Lily.

Other Noteworthy Facts, Moments and Commentary

  • The title could come from Teiji noting that, after an earthquake is done, a bird sings.


Vikander Pushing The Idea Her Character Snapped

Lucy (Alicia Vikander) smiling as she receives a gift.
Lucy (Alicia Vikander)

After Ex-Machina, the idea of Vikander playing a character who plays with the idea of her maybe being good or evil was an interesting concept. Particularly due to the psychological element dealing with her character’s emotions. For with Lucy painted as a loner type, the idea of a woman and man seducing her and it messing with her mind was quite interesting.

Now, I won’t say the execution was that good, but up until a certain point, the way things are edited make you wonder how much of her relationships with Teiji and Lily may have been in her mind? Almost like a voyeur who inserted herself into a relationship after living vicariously. Making it so, as we reach the last 45 minutes, maybe the final hour and Lucy’s mental state begins to degrade, you are left to question what is real, what is a lie, and what could be an embellishment. Which is what will keep you watching until the end.

Unlike All I See Is You, The Film Doesn’t Ignore The Local Population & Customs

Ms. Katoh (Akiko Iwase) talking to Lucy.
Ms. Katoh (Akiko Iwase)

While the film doesn’t dig deep into Japan’s culture and customs, at the very least they don’t play minor roles in a country that is very homogenous. Which isn’t to say, outside of Teiji, any of them get to play a huge and notable role, but between Lucy’s friendship with Natsuko and Ms. Katoh, you are reminded she is the foreigner, and she made a life long effort to integrate into their society. That is, rather than act like a tourist who interacts with locals when she must, but is mostly focused on sticking to the familiar and seeking fun activities.

On The Fence

Lucy & Teiji’s Relationship Doesn’t Draw You In

Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi) meeting Lucy.
Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi)

Though Kobayashi is a handsome man, Vikander isn’t necessarily the kind of actress who seems geared towards playing the love interest. In our mind, unless her character is empowered, or has the upper hand, the chemistry isn’t there. If anything, similar to her role in Tulip Fever, you get the vibe that the casting people paired her with someone attractive and hoped that would be enough.

Which it ultimately isn’t. For between Lucy being rather distant, then obsessive, and Teiji maybe having the look of an attractive man, but lacking the charisma, things just don’t click. If anything, Teiji comes off aloof to the point that he seems like the beautiful but static bait on a fish hook.

Most Of The Supporting Characters Don’t Stand Out Or Keep You Engaged

The whole film has a tone that doesn’t really push any character, outside of Vikander, to stand out – and she only really does since we’re stuck with her and see her failing mental state. That, as a viewer, may make things hard for you. Especially if you don’t latch onto Vikander playing someone wreaked by guilt who clearly has a lot of suppressed issues.

However, I will say, the performance of “Walking on Thin Ice” by Crystal Kay & Falsettos is one shining moment where you’ll find yourself awakened. Making you wish, considering how Bob mentions he has a band, that this movie doesn’t contain more music to keep you from slowly drifting into a stupor.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive)

Earthquake Bird’s issue is that it never really picks up the pace and that Vikander isn’t given someone to play against who can make her the calming force to their madness. For if one thing is becoming increasingly clear, she is good at playing grounded, sort of lethargic characters. However, unless put in a serious threatening situation, or with a great scene partner, this works against her and makes her performance lack any sense of a hook.

Hence why Earthquake Bird is labeled divisive. While Vikander’s performance isn’t bad, it definitely establishes that she needs either stimulating situations or a stimulating scene partner to flourish. Otherwise, she flounders a bit and for a film like this, which relies heavily on her talents, it suffers in the process.


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