Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 31, 2010)
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, 2009’s The Cry of the Owl introduces us to Robert Forrester (Paddy Considine). A socially awkward office drone stuck in the middle of a divorce to a woman who toys with him (Caroline Dhavernas), he satisfies his emotional longings as a Peeping Tom: he hangs outside of Jenny Thierolf’s (Julia Stiles) house and stares at her through the window.
Eventually she catches him, but rather than call the cops, she invites Robert in for a chat. This starts a relationship that intensifies after she dumps her pushy boyfriend Greg (James Gilbert), though Robert resists Jenny’s advances. He may have been the one to long for her at first, but once he gets a shot – and she actually falls for him – Robert ends the relationship.
But that doesn’t solve Robert’s problems. Greg harasses them, as he won’t accept the breakup. Greg then attacks Robert, an assault that leaves the angry ex injured – and soon dead. Robert turns into the prime suspect, and we follow events that eventually lead toward the truth.
While not an insurmountable problem, Owl suffers from an inherently flawed premise. It hinges on an awful lot of coincidence and requires us to accept a relationship in which a woman embraces her stalker. Does this happen in real life? Sure, but the movie handles it in a decidedly improbable manner.
A lot of that stems from Considine’s performance. Perhaps if he played Robert as a more likable, engaging premise, we could understand why Jenny falls for him. However, Considine turns Robert into a consistently weird dude. The guy always seems like a freak; not once in the film does he come across as anything other than mentally disturbed and unstable. (The British Considine also boasts one of the worst American accents on record.)
Yet we’re supposed to believe that babes fall for him left and right! His ex-wife I a certified hottie, and Stiles is certainly cute. We also see a beautiful doctor throw herself at Robert at a party.
Seriously? Considine is pretty average looking, and he makes Robert such a creep that it’s impossible to believe that all these babes would dig him. The role needs a much more magnetic actor. I think Robert should throw out a vibe of psychological uncertainty, but he shouldn’t be such an apparent ticking time bomb.
Perhaps a movie with a stronger narrative could get past a bad lead performance, but Owl isn’t that movie. It starts out boring and then gets a little more interesting, though mainly in an exasperating manner. It throws out some many absurd twists that we lose interest as it goes. The curveballs feel like they exist solely to put the audience off-guard. None of them feel particularly natural, and they lead us down an empty road.
Along the way, Jenny muses about how someday everything will end, and how someday she’ll eat her last meal, read her last book and hear her last song. If Owl ends up as the last movie I ever see, I’ll go to the next plane on a sour note.