76 Days: Film Review

76 Days

I appreciate that some people may not be ready to watch a documentary about the coronavirus pandemic while we’re currently still in it, but if you feel up to it, I can assure you 76 Days is a remarkable feature and a well-made document of the unprecedented times we’re living in right now.

76 Days takes its name from the duration of the lockdown in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated in late 2019. The documentary features footage from four Wuhan hospitals shot between 23 January and 8 April 2020 – the duration of the lockdown. It primarily focuses on how the staff cope with the stressful medical situation as well as some patients, such as a grandpa with dementia who keeps leaving his bed and a couple waiting to take their newborn baby home.

There are moments in 76 Days, such as the ending and the first 10-15 minutes, that truly capture how devastating, upsetting, and stressful it must be to work in a hospital right now. In fact, it may actually be worse now, given that rates in the U.K. are higher than they were in the original lockdown. Some chaotic scenes are overwhelming and stress-inducing to watch so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in the thick of it – not having enough beds for the demand, never having a break to eat, catching sleep whenever possible in a chair in the corridor, wearing PPE that covers your entire body and face, and having to call the next of kin of the dead.

I had been bracing myself for lots of footage of dead/dying people but thankfully it doesn’t do that too much. It sounds like it will be all doom and gloom and while it is mostly a raw, powerful and bleak watch, there were also moments of lightness and hope to be found too, and I’m glad the documentary didn’t completely focus on the heavy, dark material. The staff – some of which have come from across China to help Wuhan – need to have outlets to cope with their day and I liked little details such as them creating drawings on their PPE and writing get well soon messages on blown-up medical gloves for their patients.

Although I have read many stories about what it’s like to work in a hospital during this time, 76 Days is the closest I’ve got to witnessing it properly and realising how bad it is. I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for frontline healthcare workers already, but if you don’t, you will after this.

Released on digital platforms on Friday 22nd January

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Songbird: Film Review

SONGBIRD

Given that everyone’s lives have been derailed this year by the Covid pandemic, it was only a matter of time before a movie was made about this unprecedented situation – and who would have thought we would have one already, considering we are still in said pandemic?! Director Adam Mason, producer Michael Bay, and co. certainly didn’t hang about and now Songbird is in cinemas.

This thriller is set a near dystopian future when the Covid-19 virus has mutated into Covid-23 which is more fatal – this strain is now airborne and attacks the brain tissue. There have been 110 million global deaths and only people who have yellow encoded bracelets that signify their immunity are allowed outside. Nico (KJ Apa) is in the 0.1 per cent immune population and he works as a bicycle courier around Los Angeles. The movie focuses on him trying to save his girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson) from ending up in the Q Zone once her grandmother gets sick.

Mason co-wrote Songbird with Simon Boyes during lockdown and it began shooting in July, the first to film in Los Angeles after the pandemic caused productions to shut down. The turnaround has been quick and it shows because the screenplay hasn’t been well thought through. The movie is seriously cluttered. It seems like Mason and Boyes came up with so many ideas and did no quality control and just threw them all in. The film has so many characters and subplots and doesn’t know how to fit them together to make a cohesive story. They should have picked one or two and done them well rather than this scattershot approach. As a result of its overstuffed nature, it spreads itself too thin and so the characters are flimsy and their stories are largely unexplored.

Given how rich the setting is, I felt there was definitely a better story that could have been told. Mason and Boyes decided to focus on the love story of Nico and Sara, perhaps to give us all a little hope in the darkness, but their relationship wasn’t well written or believable so I didn’t care whether they managed to be physically together or not. Out of the selection of stories in the movie, I would have liked to know more about Demi Moore and Bradley Whitford‘s black market business and Whitford’s effed up relationship with wannabe singer May (Alexandra Daddario). I was most intrigued about them and I wish their stories were delved into more.

To give it some credit, Songbird is technically impressive and I liked how Mason and Boyes visualised how things got worse between 2020 and 2024. I appreciated their imagination and creativeness with the dystopian world-building, even small details like the decontamination postboxes, and it did have some thrilling moments, with Peter Stormare being particularly creepy as Emmett.

Some people use cinema as a way to escape from reality so will not like Songbird because it reminds them of the pandemic we’re in, but I personally found it interesting seeing our current reality being reflected in a Hollywood movie, although I never expected it to happen this fast. I get that Mason wanted to be the first to bring out a film inspired by the pandemic but he should have taken more time to do it well because Songbird feels rushed, cluttered, and forgettable.

In cinemas and digital platforms now

Rating: 3 out of 5.

All the movie releases that have been affected by the coronavirus

A Quiet Place Part II

This has been a long and crazy week and I’m sure you’re all exhausted by the constant coronavirus news. Given that there have been a lot of very serious updates this week, you may have had trouble keeping track of what film releases have been postponed as a result of cinema closures and restrictions on public gatherings, so I’ve put together a handy list to help.

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