“Earthquake Bird”—An Unpredictable Flight

Based on the titular novel by Susanna Jones,  Earthquake Bird was released in November 2019.  A psychological thriller with film noir features reminding this viewer of Alfred Hitchcock,   Earthquake Bird is all about guilt and the insidious nature and burden of carrying it.  More slow-paced with a scene or two reminiscent of Memento, this film captures the day-to-day life of guilt and jealousy, pulling back the curtain on what damage and unpredictability can do.

In 1989 an American woman is discovered dismembered in Tokyo.  Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander), a Swedish expat who is a translator and interpreter for  corporations and government, is taken into custody for questioning.  Lucy admits she knew the victim, Lily Bridges (Riley  Keough), but offers little else in terms of facts or other background information. Though she isn’t talking, she’s remembering.  Flashbacks — and flashbacks within flashbacks — tell the story of how she met and fell in love with Teiji Matsuda (Naoki Kobayashi), a strange and handsome street photographer.  Later,  at a nightclub, Lucy  meets the free-spirited Lily, a young woman who has just arrived in Tokyo to find work and an apartment.  Reluctantly pressured into helping Lily settle into Tokyo’s hectic urban life,  Lucy slowly forms a symbiotic relationship with Lily that complicates Lucy’s relationship with Teiji, the photographer.

Unable to  forget painful , deeply traumatic memories that have damaged her, Lucy is losing her grasp of reality.  The pivoting of character arcs leads to the resolution of the murder with surprising twists and psychological redemption offered by  a minor character.

The Japanese setting also adds a cultural dimension to Earthquake Bird, giving more complexity and suspense to the story.   This is an oddball film with a constant undercurrent of subtle tension. Earthquake Bird – in both Japanese and English—is  intriguing in  its ability to plumb the depths of childhood pain, guilt, and family betrayal.  The drizzle-gray cinematic shots of Tokyo and the notable, reflective performances of all cast members, particularly Alicia Vikander’s as a young Japanese-speaking woman, are unforgettable.   (Vikander also speaks Japanese in a fluent, albeit foreigner’s, accent.)  Earthquake Bird may be a challenge to understood and rejected by those who cannot adjust to the pacing and somewhat abrupt ending of this film.  For the rest of us Earthquake Bird is definitely worth watching!

Note: Available on Netflix

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One Reply to ““Earthquake Bird”—An Unpredictable Flight”

  1. What an interesting movie it is indeed!
    Coming home to Pacific Grove from Sierra Madre on the train, I had downloaded a few films to watch during the 9 hour ride.
    One of those movies I downloaded was “Earthquake Bird”…
    Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) fits right in with the Japaneseness of the film – she is an outsider that is comfortable with the strangeness of the foreign culture she has chosen. It takes the whole movie to understand why she is in Japan and why she embraces so much of the ways of the country.
    It begins as kind of a charming story of this young woman making a life for herself in this lovely world of Japan. As she adds new people to her life to trust and love, she discovers emotions and feelings, both old and new, that challenges her to face her old fears that threaten her future. The movie then becomes more of a psychological thriller that ends with a very tragic but satisfactory ending (at least that’s how I felt.)
    I agree with Diana that it ends a little abruptly but it is a film worth watching…I may even watch it agin!