Starring Alicia Vikander, Earthquake Bird doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t try to

Alicia Vikander wields her particular brand of quiet intensity tinged with instability in this psychological thriller that just makes it onto the right side of “WTF did I just watch?”.

The synopsis for this movie is accurate, in the most literal sense of the word: while working as a translator in Japan, a woman falls for a photographer, but consequences arise after she meets and befriends a woman who interrupts their life.

I say accurate because technically, that is exactly what happens. Now, the consequences aren’t linked to what the synopsis seems to imply they’re linked to; and I feel like at least one line should have been dedicated to how incredibly attractive the photographer is… but that’s just splitting hairs at this point.

Earthquake Bird is based on a novel of the same name written by Susanna Jones. I haven’t read the novel, but if the movie is anything to go by it’s likely worth a gander. This is mainly because I’d like to think the exposition would explain some things which the film just doesn’t seem bothered by at all – like how your boyfriend and friend can just leave you sleeping on a hill to go exploring, when you were all on a group friendship date thing together.

Lean into the confusion

You’d think that at some point a movie will remember that there are people watching it who kind of want to know what’s going on, and it’d tell you what’s going on. You would be wrong in thinking this about Earthquake Bird. While Alicia Vikander’s Lucy Fly, Riley Keough’s Lily Bridges and Naoki Kobayashi’s Teiji form a very tense love triangle that’s occasionally believable, the three’s performances never quite manage to make up for the disjointed writing.

Something just never comes together with Earthquake Bird, and it’s a shame.

Because in the bones of the story is something that anyone who’s ever been labelled a late bloomer, ugly duckling or plain friend can connect with. Lucy Fly isn’t remarkable in appearance, though her interests and talents are varied. She doesn’t so much lack confidence as she doesn’t seek out the limelight. Even being conspicuous as a white woman in 1989 Tokyo, she takes the attention as something which is both obvious and generally irrelevant.

That screaming you can hear is Lily, from the other end of the spectrum, trying to get your attention. It’s a classic juxtaposition – the quiet friend who seems to have her life together and her wild friend who’s collection of life experiences includes wild memories and broken hearts. They’d probably be alright, too, if it wasn’t for Teiji.

Everything’s more obsessive with Teiji

“You’re not normal,” he can be heard saying in the trailer, to which Lucy replies that neither is he. “No,” he broods, broodily, “so let’s not pretend to be,”

With lines like these spoken by people with cheekbones like those, and with acclaimed source material, this movie could have skated into ‘enjoyable but ultimately forgettable’ territory with ease. Instead, it chose to idle in ‘ watchable and WTF’.

As I mentioned earlier, these three carry on a never-compelling but always interesting love triangle which culminates in the disappearance of Lily Attempted-Homewrecker Bridges. Lots of other things happen in the interim and the film’s ending doesn’t bring blessed answers – it just brings an ending. I really don’t even know why I’m reviewing this movie other than not wanting to be simultaneously bored and confused alone.

Watch Earthquake Bird’s trailer and be confused

Mood Rating: There are definitely better things you could do with your evening, but there are also worse things you could do with your evening so that counts for something. Watch this movie if you’re a fan of Alicia Vikander, tall photographers with beautiful faces or you just don’t want me to be bored and confused alone.


Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being geeky on Twitter @ThatLFM

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