Suspecting that her husband Tom (David Alpay) might be having an affair, ex-police officer Sheila Hood (Kathleen Munroe) uses her surveillance expertise to place hidden cameras around their home. Confirming that her beloved Tom, an ornithologist, has been secretly seeing Merle (Melanie Scrofano), Sheila’s world is immediately turned upside down. Rather than confront her unfaithful beau, Sheila finds herself drawn to the mysterious other woman.
Growing increasingly compelled by her voyeurism, Sheila not only begins following Merle, but becomes consumed with understanding the woman. This not only involves trying to become Merle by dying her hair blond, and exploring a new level of sexual liberation, but also inserting herself into the woman’s world by taking on a side job as a private detective for Merle’s father John James (Stephen McHattie). However, when Merle and her bullish fiancé (Joris Jarsky) are found dead, and Tom is arrested as the main suspect, Sheila must confront the tangled web of lust and deceit that she finds herself in.
Showing the seedy underbelly of Birdland, with Toronto’s cold and beautiful landscape serving as the fictional city, the film highlights the darker side of obsession. Lynch presents a world where the women are strong and cunning, and men’s seemingly tough exteriors are betrayed by the fragility of their egos.
Though steeped in the elements of the noir genre, Birdland uses a fragmented narrative to evoke the sense of a dreamlike world. Director Peter Lynch purposely keeps the viewer off-balance as it becomes increasingly clear that the version of events we see may not always reflect what actually happened. Pulling together themes that touch on eroticism, reinvention, grief, environmental advocacy, and the haunting nature of the past to name a few, Lynch’s film is smorgasbord of ideas.
Thankfully, he manages to keep his film focused and intimate despite its sprawling philosophical feel. It also helps that Lynch incorporates a moment specifically designed to both give the viewer a breather and allow them to reacquaint themselves with the players interwoven into this chessboard. Regardless of the various moving pieces, it is the performances of Kathleen Munroe and Cara Gee, who play’s Merle’s sultry sibling Hazel, that keeps the viewer glued to the central mystery.
Birdland dreamy approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those willing to stick with it will be provided with much to chew on. Demanding the viewer’s unwavering attention, the film is an intriguing character study of obsession and the consequences the past has on an uncertain future.