"Bluebird" is reminiscent of "The Sweet Hereafter", and it moves nearly as slowly. When a simple distraction causes a school bus driver to lose her focus, a child ends up in the hospital, clinging for life. The driver must deal with the aftermath, which includes a criminal investigation and pressure from the child's distant and troubled mother.
The film opens with an extensive look at the process of logging. In the interest of closing things out nicely and coming full circle, the film ends with rolls of paper spinning off the assembly line. If only resolution for "Bluebird"'s characters was as cut-and-dry. Perhaps it is, but the process of getting there moves in the convenience of movie time.
John Slattery, Emily Meade, Adam Driver and Louisa Krause round out the supporting cast. Stage actress Amy Morton handles most of the heavy lifting when it comes to acting. The film is wonderfully acted, so if anything pulls "Bluebird" back, it would be all the things that the screenplay doesn't say.
"Illiterate" is a tight drama from Chile. At first, Ximena invokes sympathy for her plight(see the film's title), but soon it becomes obvious why she lives a life of lonely solitude. The film is frustrating at times, especially with an odd decision made after a shared beer. But the ending is far more satisfying because of the earlier challenges. A simple drama propelled forward by strong performances from its two female leads, "Illiterate" is one to keep on the radar at this year's Chicago International Film Festival.
"Wild Duck" is a challenging film for many reasons. Right from the start, it confuses the details. Whether or not that choice is intentional is hard to say, but neither choice would necessarily make for a better outcome. A telecommunications expert is handled by a national security agency to investigate a potential incident of phone hacking. A rogue mobile phone antenna and an analog broadband detector are used to great effect, reminiscent of the tracking device used by Javier Bardem in the Coen Brothers' classic "No Country For Old Men."
Hints of an espionage thriller never really pick up speed, so "Wild Duck" definitely resides in the drama category. It's a relatively slow one, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but "Wild Duck" seems to meander from moment to moment, only trying to hit emotional resonance in its last act. The result is puzzling, but not memorable enough to require reflection far beyond its conclusion.