As a nurse, the subject of loss is near to me and I’ve had the tragic privilege of walking families through the process of grief. Perhaps this is why The Starling was such a draw for me. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Kevin Kline, the film, now available on Netflix, is about life after loss and how to navigate the very difficult and non-linear process of grief.
When the film opens, the audience learns that husband and wife Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) have lost their baby to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This is a story about grieving and the many ways people deal with death and loss. Jack has been institutionalized as he is unable to cope with the loss. Lilly attempts to hold the practical parts of their lives together, avoiding her own grief. To complicate matters, a starling has taken up residence in her backyard and begins to attack and harrass her, symbolic of the nagging grief she is avoiding.
Lilly’s weekly two-hour trips to see her husband break up her daily routine of working at the local grocery store while maintaining their home. During one of her visits, a counselor at the institution where Jack is being treated suggests that Lilly address her grief, and suggests the name of a therapist in her home town. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline) is a psychologist-turned-veterinarian who’s cynical view on his former profession results in an approach that allows him to reach Lilly.
At the heart of this poignant story is a couple trying to navigate their way forward together after excruciating heartbreak. Lilly and Jack, grieving the loss of their daughter, are stagnant, and the film depicts how each of them distinctly handle the loss. Lilly portrays strength and perseverance and I appreciated her commitment to her husband, who’s very real struggle raises awareness to the very real issue of mental illness and grief. Ultimately, The Starling seeks to find meaning in life in the midst of grief and the message that there is life after loss.
Director Ted Melfi and Producer Kimberly Quinn discuss The Starling
The Starling is now streaming on Netflix.