REVIEW: Blue Jay (2016)

Theatrical Release Poster - The Orchard; Netflix
Theatrical Release Poster – The Orchard; Netflix

The following is a quick review of Blue Jay – directed by Alex Lehmann.

Blue Jay follows Jim (played by Mark Duplass) and Amanda (played by Sarah Paulson), two former high school sweethearts, after they run into each other in a supermarket. They decide that they should go have some coffee together and talk about their lives. Amanda is married and has become a stepmom to her husband’s two sons. Jim, on the other hand, works on houses for his uncle and hasn’t got anyone. They decide to spend the rest of the day together to discuss old memories and to reconnect.

Blue Jay is a black and white dramedy with a lean runtime of only 80 minutes. The film isn’t a groundbreaking achievement. It is very much something you’ve seen before, and it isn’t a plot-heavy film. It’s just about getting reconnected with old friends and coming to terms with what can’t be undone while still appreciating the good times of the past.

Sometimes the use of black and white in independent filmmaking can seem like an afterthought, something that doesn’t add to the film in a significant way. But the use of black and white in Blue Jay feels purposeful and I think it works quite well. It works as a way of highlighting the nostalgia that this film deals with to an extent.

But there is also something that I won’t reveal in the review that makes their meeting very bittersweet and when that element is touched upon it reveals the complexities of their relationship. Real human characters with a believable layered relationship. While the film is in black and white, their relationship wasn’t necessarily, so to speak.

This wouldn’t feel like an impressive film if it weren’t for the performances at the center of it. I believe that this film was improvised, to an extent, and that is something that the multi-talented Mark Duplass works very well with. The versatile Sarah Paulson, who is almost always great, stands out, though, and I was always drawn to her character. She does a great job of jumping between the depressed Amanda and the Amanda that Jim fell in love with.

So while Blue Jay doesn’t feel all that fresh, the filmmakers have handled the themes of the film very well, and Duplass and, in particular, Paulson give great performances. Blue Jay is a heartbreaking nostalgia romance with elements from the common dramedy buoyed by memorable performances.

8 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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