Like, today’s headlines.
The first film to shoot in Los Angeles during the lockdown details life during COVID.
Set in 2024, during the fourth year of pandemic, COVID has mutated, leaving the United States under martial law were infected citizens are forcibly removed from their homes. Treated like walking, talking biohazards they are housed in concentration camps called Q-Zones.
Meanwhile, motorcycle courier Nico (KJ Apa) is immune. A recovered COVID patient, he has the antibodies to fight off the disease. When his locked-down girlfriend Sarah (Sofia Carson) is suspected of contracting the virus, Nico springs into action to save her from being taken away.
There are side characters galore, like Bradley Whitford’s sex-crazed record producer, a lovelorn veteran played by Paul Walter Hauser, Demi Moore’s protective mom and an over-the-top Peter Stormare as the evil head of the Los Angeles’ “sanitation” department–but most of them exist only to heighten the grim desperation of the situation.
“Songbird” isn’t a politicized screed about masks or the virus’ origin. Instead, it’s a star-crossed style romance—”You’ve never been in the same room,” says Sara’s mother, “but he loves you.”—set against the backdrop of the worst world event in decades.
It would be one thing if “Songbird” had something to add the conversation about COVID, but it doesn’t. Instead, it plays off our worst collective fears in clumsy and exploitative ways.
It’s likely to appeal to conspiracy enthusiasts who may finger their tinfoil hats in excitement at the mention of bracelets for “munies”—the immune—an unchecked department of sanitation who arrest at will, apps that will report you if your temperature is above normal and ever-present surveillance.
For those not inclined toward dystopian extremes, “Songbird” is a crass reminder of the real-life death, sickness, unemployment and heartache COVID has wrought. It feels tone deaf, and worse, it’s a bad movie.