Earthquake Bird is a real head-scratcher that makes one wonder why Alicia Vikander and writer-director Wash Westmoreland would ever be interested in this project in the first place.
After playing the London Film Festival and Tokyo International Film Festival in October, the Netflix-distributed Earthquake Bird is a genre hybrid that doesn’t quite know where it belongs.
Part murder mystery, part psychosexual thriller, Earthquake Bird follows Lucy (Vikander), a Swedish ex-pat living in 1989 Tokyo, as she escapes her dark past. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Lucy is called in for questioning about the disappearance of a young ex-pat named Lily (Riley Keough) who came between Lucy and her photographer boyfriend, Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi).
“Death follows me,” Lucy ominously says, providing no further details. Even after dropping that tidbit, it’s still hard to care about Lucy or any secrets she may be harbouring beneath her blank exterior.
Described in the official Netflix synopsis as an “enigmatic” character, Lucy is anything but. Fluent in Japanese, she is a buttoned-up, by-the-books translator, respectful of the culture in the country she considers “home.” Though playing a woman with a past who might be a murderer looks like a juicy role on paper (and in the book it is based on by Susanna Jones), Vikander comes off as so dull and flat that she’s as grey and washed out as the rainy Tokyo setting.
The movie meanders through its plot points in a narrative that feels lost in translation. Earthquake Bird at times abandons the central murder mystery for something else entirely as it wanders through unrelated – and uninteresting – side stories.
Despite telling engaging female-centric stories with fully-developed characters in “Still Alice” and “Colette,” Westmoreland wastes Vikander’s talents in Earthquake Bird, which lacks thrills and ultimately ends on a note that feels all too familiar.
Earthquake Bird is now streaming on Netflix.