10th October 2019 6.00pm at Vue West End
10th October 2019 6.30pm at Vue West End
11th October 2019 12.15pm at Embankment Garden Cinema
Duplicity is the name of the game in Wash Westmoreland’s Netflix noir thriller Earthquake Bird. The film, starring Alicia Vikander, Riley Keough and Naoki Kobayashi, homes in on a psychologically dense and complicated tale of love and obsession. This slow-burner creates oodles of intrigue; but it eventually fizzles out instead of exploding.
The opening shot shows train tracks twirling into the depths of a city: the zigzagging architecture of Tokyo, 1989. It is structured chaos; the psychological framework of the film follows suit. Within moments it is clear that an American expat, Lily (Keough), has gone missing. Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) is taken in for questioning. As the interrogation progresses, the script skilfully recounts the story of a love triangle in teasing fragments. The script and Lucy’s answers fuse, piecing together the larger story of who Lucy really is and what exactly she is running from.
The nuanced script is matched by Alicia Vikander’s measured and confident Japanese, which she learned from scratch for the role of the assimilated Swedish expat. Kobayashi, Keough and Vikander are distinct in their performances. They draw in their audience with decidedly different tactics. While Kobayashi’s Teiji is brooding and mysterious, Keough plays the brash and bubbling American newcomer wonderfully.
Not everything is as it seems. Through Lucy’s eyes, we grow unsure of the hazy line distinguishing reality and the inexplicable. The spiritual is threaded into the rational world, and Westmoreland masterfully laces the thriller with questions. Ultimately, though, the answers don’t measure up to the allure. Nonetheless, the visually dense backdrop mingles tantalizingly with the curious development in the love-triangle. Teiji’s photographic fascination with people’s reflections and light refracting on surface planes gives artistic texture to the film.
The costume design, sets and natural world are captured with an astute eye which evokes a quintessentially late-80s fashion and culture. But as the psychological denouement draws nearer, sharp character shifts usurp the succinctly crafted characterisation. Earthquake Bird’s beautiful scenery eventually wins out over its jealousy- and obsession-stricken plot.
Earthquake Bird is released in select cinemas on 8th November 2019 and on Netflix on 15th November 2019.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Earthquake Bird here: