At this point of the Coronavirus, it’s 2024, and over 8.4 million people have died, and if you aren’t immune to the virus, your movement is severely limited. But don’t think that the immune have suddenly inherited the world and live like kings. As shown by Nico’s existence, some are just delivery boys. Yet, with his love for Sara and building up a motorbike, Nico has carved a survivable life.
However, the niche Nico has carved is threatened by a much larger world that has cracked down on the infected in a tyrannical way. People as young as 10 can be snatched out of their homes and put into camps if they don’t pass a daily, phone-based scan. And naturally, Nico finds his peaceful corner of the world on the brink as corrupt officials and the system that empowers them may cause him to lose what he touts as the love of his life.
Cast & Character Guide
Nico (KJ Apa)
Before the pandemic, he was a paralegal. Post-pandemic? He makes a living biking around Los Angeles, delivering packages, primarily for the rich, while trying to make time to see his girlfriend.
Sara (Sofia Carson)
While in lockdown with her grandmother, Sara spends most of her days drawing when not face-timing or creating makeshift dates with her boyfriend Nico.
Emmett (Peter Stormare)
After a series of unfortunate events, Emmett went from a pencil pusher to one of his agency’s most powerful people.
William (Bradley Whitford)
Rich, connected, and not above exploitation, William has found and maintained wealth thanks to access to certain technology that makes his expertise lucrative. But, rarely, if ever, does he use what he knows for good. Rather, it is mainly about maintaining his vices and appeasing his wife.
May (Alexandra Daddario)
Before the pandemic, May was on course to become another singer discovered online who found success. However, the pandemic ended her music career skyrocketing so she does covers in chat rooms to feel connected and deals with William’s exploitation.
Michael (Paul Walter Hauser)
A man who hasn’t left his house in years but has made a living working for Lester, tracking the couriers Lester employs, including Nico, thanks to his drone expertise.
Lester (Craig Robinson)
Lester is Nico and Michael’s employer, whose company survives mainly from delivering packages for the wealthy.
Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered
Reason(s) for Film Rating: Mild nudity, in the form of seeing K.J. Apa’s backside, smoking, and watching someone get murdered.
Jump Scares/ Laughs/ Tear-Jerking Moments: One character’s death might make you teary-eyed. However, no guarantees due to how they were developed.
On The Fence
The Core Relationship
When it comes to Sara and Nico, unfortunately, their romance doesn’t entice you. Yes, they are given a backstory, have what can be considered cute dates considering the pandemic, and Sara is given a life outside of Nico. However, there isn’t much chemistry there. What you have is Apa’s charm put with Carson being a beautiful young woman, and that’s it.
This isn’t to downplay Sara’s story about taking care of and being on lockdown with her grandmother, but as much as Sara is given a life, it isn’t one you necessarily want to invest in. I’d even say all that Songbird does is update the damsel in distress storyline to fit the modern pandemic. And while, again, Apa makes a charming knight in shining armor, his character, like Carson’s, is dull and doesn’t bring the oomph needed to combat a world that is the worst-case scenario of what we’re all going through.
The villains are the privileged and a corrupt government. It’s not a terrible setup, but like a lot of Songbird, the issue is the execution. Emmett, as the head of the Los Angeles Sanitation department, it’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, he represents that government official that, for some, is the person ruining their life with the United States government’s full enforcement. Yet, on the opposite end, Emmett isn’t given any real depth. He isn’t made into the hero of his own story or doing what he has to do in order to manage the pandemic. He’s just a douche.
Then with William, it’s social privilege, white privilege, white man privilege specifically, and it’s exhausting. In our mind, there should be a small part of you that wants to see the villain do more, create a bigger obstacle, and possibly even succeed. Yet, with William, he is just someone who lucked out. Like Emmett, he isn’t someone who you at least respect for the work it took for them to get to where they were. Purely, they are two lucky, mediocre white men with power.
It Doesn’t Dive Into All It Could
Which is one of the biggest issues with the film for us. You can see all the socio commentary that can be done, there is how and why the government is enforcing lockdown and how that relates to modern times, and so much more that is utterly ignored. And that is perhaps the biggest issue we have with the film – it doesn’t seek to have depth. It doesn’t really want to take the situations and characters presented seriously.
Mind you, it starts off with people mad about lockdowns, talking about conspiracies, but then it utterly leaves that behind. And while some, like a girl named May, talk about how things for them just ended in a snap and left them vulnerable, you rarely feel Songbird really wants to take note of the drama it could explore. It’s like, it wants to keep it light to the point you almost expect them to throw some jokes in there – beyond the jokes that are William, and especially Emmett.
For many, I can imagine Songbird being made way too soon and being seen in bad taste. Especially since it isn’t really focused on telling the story of what could really happen if the pandemic lasts nearly half a decade. Instead, it has a damsel in distress romance as its lead, followed by a man exploiting a vulnerable young woman, followed by a corrupt government official. The combination just doesn’t click and pushes you to feel that it was utterly disregarded what this film could have been in the pursuit of entertainment. Be it about hope, connection, or if it wanted to go down that route, surviving despite a system that would rather you die off than thrive.
Hence the mixed label. What you will find yourself admitting is Songbird had potential in more ways than one. It’s just, the problem is, nearly every avenue and every way it could have tapped into that potential, it did so without commitment to fully exploring what each scenario could mean. Be it two people in love who cannot have physical contact. The isolation that comes from being one of a handful of people who can traverse the real world freely, or being part of a system that has you as the symbol for tyranny. I could go on and on, and because of that, Songbird is immensely frustrating.
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With Sara’s grandmother possibly having COVID, based on a fever and the quality of her lungs, the Department of Sanitation is ready to swoop right in, and this means Sara and her grandmother being forced to what is touted as a death camp. However, thanks to Nico, and his connections, he gets a bracelet that says she is immune and works on a way out.
Which, we find out when Sara is being transported, is true – She was actually immune to COVID. It’s just, she didn’t have the opportunity to be tested. Making it so, while Sara and Nico illegally get out of Los Angeles, they are free.
As for the rest? Well, William is killed by a man named Michael, who works for Nico’s boss Lester. For with Michael growing close to May, a singer whose career stalled once the pandemic hit, he didn’t take well to William manipulating May into having sex with him. So when William got out of pocket and threatened violence, Michael, using his drone and military expertise, he killed William.
And naturally, Emmett dies in the end as well. He is killed by Nico after one of their tussles and left for dead.
Does Songbird Have Sequel Potential?
I think it is less about there is sequel potential and whether or not Songbird deserves a sequel if it doesn’t want to take its subject matter seriously. Because, after a three-month jump, we know Nico and Sara are alive, as are May and others. However, what would they do beyond what we saw already is the question?
It Doesn't Dive Into All It Could - 70%
The Villains - 72%
The Core Relationship - 76%
What you will find yourself admitting is Songbird had potential in more ways than one. It's just, the problem is, nearly every avenue and every way it could have tapped into that potential, it did so without commitment to fully exploring what each scenario could mean.