The Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind the hit movie Hidden Figures says he hopes his newest project — Netflix's The Starling — gives viewers a sense of hope no matter what they are facing in life.
The film tells the story of a husband and wife grieving the sudden death of their infant child.
It stars Chris O'Dowd (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Get Shorty) and Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) as a couple who are mourning in dramatically different ways. He has been confined to a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide, while she has focused on her work to ignore the emotional pain.
The Starling (PG-13) was directed by Theodore Melfi, who previously received two Oscar nominations for Hidden Pictures, which he directed and co-wrote. (The nominations were for Best Picture and Best Screenplay.)
"I hope that [viewers will] realize that no matter what … trauma or grief or bad situation we go through, there's always a way out," Melfi said. "There's always a way to the other side. There is always light at the proverbial end of the tunnel. Keep going. Fight for yourself and for others, and at the end of the day, you can get through."
Melfi initially read the script about eight years ago and says he was immediately moved by the plot, which he describes as a story about a couple facing an "insurmountable" problem.
"You watch the beginning of the movie and say … 'There's no way they can get out of this.'"
McCarthy's character needs therapy but is "barreling through life and trying to run away from her grief, which is not going to work," Melfi said. O'Dowd's character — a schoolteacher — believes the tragedy is "too much" to face.
A third character, Larry Fine (Kevin Kline), is an ex-therapist-turned-veterinarian who befriends McCarthy's character and helps her heal.
The movie, he said, is about hope.
It gets its name from a starling bird that lives in her backyard and attacks her whenever she gardens. At one point, the veterinarian operates on the bird.
Melfi calls the bird the "titular character" that delivers the "proverbial knock on your door that says, 'Stop and deal with your stuff.'"
Generosity also is a major theme in the movie. Fine volunteers his time and acts as a therapist to McCarthy's character, even though he is a veterinarian. McCarthy, for her part, dutifully visits her husband in the hospital, even when he shows no signs of healing.
"We have to remember our generosity – our humanity. We're on this planet to be of service. I don't care what your religious, political or social belief is. We're ultimately on this planet to be of service to our fellow man and our fellow woman. And yet we forget that, because we become so myopically addicted to our own lives," Melfi said. "... The most important thing is being of service because in that service, you find yourself,"
The Starling is rated PG-13 for thematic material, some strong language, and suggestive material.
Photo courtesy: ©Netflix, Inc.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.