CERT: 15 | PLATFORM: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The circumstances that brought Songbird to the screen are actually far more interesting than the film itself. Conceived by writers Adam Mason (who also directs) and Simon Boyes in March, greenlit in May, filmed in July and August and released in December, Songbird is a triumph of the creative spirit in times of direst adversity but it’s hard to shake off the feeling that it’s a bit on the nose, a bit too exploitative, a bit ‘too soon’.
In 2024, Covid-19 has mutated into the far more lethal Covid-23 and Los Angeles is in a state of virtual siege. The city is on permanent lockdown, the infected are forcibly taken from their homes and thrown into quarantine camps known as ‘Q Zones’ where they are left to die. Nico Price (Riverdale’s KJ Apa) is a motorcycle courier immune to the virus and delivering packages to wealthy locked-down residents. He is in a frustratingly-virtual relationship with Sara Garcia (Sofia Carson), who is living in lockdown with her grandmother and his boss Lester is using his couriers to deliver illegal immunity wristbands. When Sara’s grandmother falls ill, Nico races against time to obtain an immunity wristband for Sara before she is shipped off to a Q Zone but to do so he has to navigate the mean streets of a dying city and face the psychopathic sanitation department chief Emmett Harland (Peter Stormare), and William Griffin (Bradley Whitford) and his wife Piper (Demi Moore), who are supplying the illegal wristbands.
Songbird is a missed opportunity its own right as it isn’t much good but its bigger problem is that it can’t help leaving a sour taste because it’s based on a situation that has caused genuine grief and despair to hundreds of thousands of people and postulates a situation where things get a whole lot worse. The story itself has little to offer; it takes no surprising turns, it jumps through all the hoops we expect from the moment it lays out its world and introduces its players. It’s well-mounted, though – there are some evocative, if uncomfortable, scenes of deserted, barricaded streets – and the acting is as good as the perfunctory script requires. There may be a time when a more elegiac and reflective film about the days we are living in might be appropriate but Songbird clearly has no interest in being that sort of film. Its very existence is admirable enough but that’s really the only thing in its favour.