Birdland has a stylish slipperiness that pulls you in

Peter Lynch’s first dramatic feature is a deliriously loopy take on infidelity, deception and murder

BIRDLAND (Peter Lynch). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (January 26). See listing. Rating: NNN

Birdland is the first dramatic feature from the documentarian Peter Lynch, who gave us Project Grizzly, Cyberman and The Herd. And yes, The Herd had dramatic re-creations, but Birdland is a proper work of fiction – and a deliriously loopy one at that.

There are moments when Lynch brings Birdland right to the edge of po-faced self-parody with its moody, time-shuffled take on infidelity, deception and murder. With its focus on sex, lies and surveillance video, at times it feels like the worst idea Atom Egoyan ever had. But there’s an alluring, stylish slipperiness that pulls you in instead of pushing you away you never know what’s coming next.

The chronology is scrambled, but the plot is pretty straightforward, as frazzled Toronto detective Sheila Hood (Call Me Fitz’s Kathleen Munroe) tries to solve the murder of oil executive Merle James (Wynonna Earp’s Melanie Scrofano) before she goes down for it herself. It seems Merle was sleeping with Sheila’s ornithologist husband Tom (David Alpay), and everybody knew it. 

Fortunately, Sheila’s in a pretty good position to piece the facts together, since she’d planted tiny video cameras all over her home once she suspected Tom was cheating on her. She’s a cop they have whole warehouses of those things.

Lynch’s script, co-written with novelist Lee Gowan, parallels Sheila’s surveillance of her own home with some sinister backroom corporate doings in Merle’s past – and Stephen McHattie is clearly having a ball as Scrofano’s oil baron father, implying all manner of squinty perversity even when he’s just sitting behind a desk.

Birdland roots all of its conflicts in themes of jealousy and insecurity that remain strangely relatable even as the film’s presentation grows stranger and more arch. I could honestly have done without the Eyes Wide Shut elements, though that would rob us of Cara Gee’s fun, self-aware turn as another of McHattie’s weird heirs. 

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