Bird-watching is an activity up there with train-spotting, in the ranks of painfully sad pastimes. At least it is in my mind. Rather than middle-aged men standing around on the ends of platforms, wearing anoraks and noting down the same trains, it sees middle-aged men standing around in fields, wearing anoraks and noting down the same birds. So it almost seems to follow that since we’ve seen a film centred around (very loosely, it must be said) Trainspotting, it almost seems to follow that one must be due about bird-watching.
And here it is. Pelican Blood, a painfully-indie film about a bunch of young men who like bird-watching. It’s actually supposed to be a romance film, but the only evidence I can see of that is a sex scene and some airy waffling about love at the end. From the start, Pelican Blood annoyed me. It is full of skinny, runty teenagers with ‘quirky’ interests – ranging from the aforementioned ornithology to the almost-cliché animal rights protesting – whose hollow irritating characters inspire next to no sympathy, and whose actions make little rational sense.
The story itself is fairly basic. Troubled young indie kid Nikko (Harry Treadaway) has an obsession with bird-watching, a host of neuroses and suicidal tendencies. And a name that sounds like a brand of camera. When his equally disturbed ex-girlfriend Stevie (Emma Booth) comes back into his life, his friends and family are understandably worried, since they met on an internet suicide forum, and split up after he tried to kill himself. You might think that you can see where the plot is going from there, but I’d lay odds you’re wrong. It doesn’t follow a logical progression, and might be favourably looked upon as being unpredictable, but the problem is that the whole plot seems so very strange that it’s hard to keep tabs on it, hard to understand why the characters react and respond in the way they do.
The rude Scot, the nervous rich kid, the flighty vegan girl, and the stick-thin misfit of a main character – they’re all staples in this genre, and can be used extremely well. But here they imbrue no sense of investment, no cause to take interest. Every one of the characters is ‘damaged’, but their damage seems instead to define them, and they act as an example of their problems rather than a character suffering from any discernable problems.
In the end, it’s going to either appeal to you or not. It bored me, but it could fascinate others. It wins points for its sheer oddness, for taking a subculture and using it as the basis for a film. But it does too little with it to gain much credit from me. It could have been something good, it could have been something entertaining, but I get the feeling it’s just too concerned with making itself fit a genre type.