Context: Our Review of ‘Scheme Birds’

Posted in Movies,, What's Streaming? by - October 06, 2022
Context: Our Review of ‘Scheme Birds’

The main participant, Gemma, is one the film’s titular Scheme Birds, from directors Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin. In one scene, the teenager from Motherwell, Scotland, threatens to take on a boy who wants to beat up her friend. While in another, she hangs out with similar boys, lighting fireworks, the directors accompanying that scene with Scottish rap. I’m an old husk living in an ambitious city. And for most of the film, I wonder why she wants to hang out with these teenagers. However, these scenes show why, capturing the carefree nature of a teen without a care in the world.

Scheme Birds chooses blanched neorealism. This is slightly different from documentaries that came out at the same time that preferred to use bright colours and drone shots. Its artistry is more subtle. That especially pops out through its use of narration and the right amount of compassionate contextualization and poetry. Life, as Scheme Birds depicts, is both cyclical and surprising. Gemma’s grandfather Joseph steers her in the right path, inviting her to join his boxing gym and his hobby of raising pigeons. She tries to go along with these things. But she seems to fall into the cycle that most teens in Motherwell fall into – one of crime and teen parenthood.

Scheme Birds is obviously going to give her context. But it also does the same to the people around her, specifically her baby’s father Pat who, through narration, we learn as someone with more emotional depth. Neither does the film valorize or fetishize working or welfare class people as super noble. Sometimes Pat does fall short and even do morally questionable things like steal from her. The conflict here now is how long she’ll stay with him and this environment. Some writers have criticized Scheme Birds for its occasional artiness but I actually don’t mind those moments when they pop up because if anything, its weakest spot involves one of its B-plots.

That B-plot, by the way, involves an off screen fight that paralyzes one of Gemma’s friends JP. It’s an injury so bad that it ends up making his girlfriend leave him. That girlfriend by the way one of two unsympathetic participants in Scheme Birds. A lot of the JP stuff then feels like set ups. Like Gemma narrating about avoiding him because doesn’t want to see him because she wants to remember his past self. She eventually sees him out of her high rise window but you know, they eventually hang out. Moments like this show the directors’ hands, but what saves this is its depiction of a girl and giving her a voice.

Scheme Birds comes to OVID today.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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