“Magpie” with Daisy Ridley Premieres at SXSW

The Magpie is a bird that has been associated with good luck and good fortune in Asian cultures. However, in this SXSW film that had its World Premiere at the Stateside Theater at SXSW  on Saturday, March 9th, good luck quickly goes bad. It’s a thriller from first-time feature director Sam Yates of the U.K., starring Daisy Ridley, Shazad Latif, Matilda Lutz, and Hiba Ahmed. The bird crashing into the glass side of the house may be the origin of the title. It’s certainly representative of how the female lead, wife and mother Annette, must feel in her marriage.

THE STORY

Sam Yates
“Magpie” director Sam Yates.

The plot idea, we were told during the Q&A, came from Ridley, in collaboration with her husband, Tom Bateman. Bateman wrote the screenplay. He also received the Breakthrough Actor award at GQ’s 2018 Men of the Year Awards. As an actor, he made his US feature film debut in Jonathan Levine’s “Snatched” opposite Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer. The 6’ 2” thirty-four-year-old Bateman is one of 14 children, and has a twin brother.  Bateman and Ridley have been married since 2022. The first-time feature U.K. director is Sam Yates.

Bateman’s screenplay is the old familiar story of the long-suffering wife giving up her promising career to stay home and care for a child. In this case, Ridley’s character (Annette) has a young daughter (Mathilda) and an infant son (Lucas). The baby is cranky. Dad does as little as possible to help care for the child.

BEN & MATHILDA

Daisy Ridley and Tom Bateman, her husband and "Magpie's" screenwriter.
Daisy Ridley and Tom Bateman, her husband and “Magpie’s” screenwriter, onstage at SXSW after the film’s World Premiere.

Dad Ben may not pay much attention to his wife, but he seems to dote on his daughter (Hiba Ahmed). When Mathilda gets a role in a movie as the daughter of  rising female star Alicia (Mathilda Lutz), Dad immediately begins taking her to the set daily. He hangs around the set, further ignoring his long-suffering wife stuck at home with a crying baby. Soon, Ben becomes romantically interested in the leading lady. If you expect some racy sex scenes, however, think again. The romance is more illusion than reality.

 

 

 

Shazad Latif
Shazad Latif, who portrayed Ben in “Magpie,” onstage at SXSW during the World Premiere Q&A.

The father figure in “Magpie” is fairly representative of many men of the Baby Boomer generation.  Nowadays, with the majority of women working wives, Mom expects and deserves a spouse who participates in tasks like getting up in the night to take care of the crying baby or helping change diapers. Can we say that Ben is the Donald Trump of Dads? Or should I quote Shazad Latif, who referred to his character as “a piece-of-shit.” The audience burst into spontaneous applause after the scene where Ben gets his come-uppance.

THE GOOD

Daisy Ridley is riveting as the wife who is putting up with Ben’s wandering eye, while keeping her own eyes firmly on the situation. She is right on the edge, stressed to the max, and we’re right there with her. She sports a severe short haircut—a nice touch. There is a great scene where Ben runs off and leaves Annette with their infant son on a day when she has a luncheon date with an old work colleague. Annette has to take the child along in an infant carrier. The lunch, as you can imagine if you’ve ever had a colicky baby (as I have), is a disaster. The incident makes us even more sympathetic to poor Annette.

Shazad Latif as Ben is appropriately belligerent, self-centered, and narcissistic. His actions seemed quite representative of many men in my days as a young mother. Today’s fathers are more involved. We might compare Ben to Donald Trump, who has publicly said that he left all the hands-on parenting of young children to his wives.

THE BAD

"Magpie" Q&A at SXSW
Q&A onstage after the World Premiere of “Magpie” at SXSW, Director Sam Yates speaking.

The actions of Annette, however, seemed much too docile and passive.  She passively puts up with Ben’s indifference. While we see her stressed to the max in private, she keeps a stiff upper lip during every confrontation. Maybe she should speak up, instead of acting out? Perhaps she could have put a halt to Ben’s wandering eye sooner, rather than later? Annette did get in a good dig about Ben’s supposed career as a successful writer, implying that nobody knew who he was. (Indeed, I wondered when or if Ben ever worked.) The audience loved that line, too.

The young actress who played Tilly (Hiba Ahmed) came off as very plastic. Some child actors are instantly believable. Young Hiba was not. The three lead adults were great, but the film would have benefited from a stronger child star.

THE HOUSE

From the stage, during the Q&A at the Stateside Theater in Austin, the filmmakers described how the film began falling into place once they found the right house. It had to be a glass box that seemed as though the wife was nearly imprisoned there. They found the right house; it worked.

The cast, during the Q&A, described a fun shoot, saying, “Everyone was so brilliant and happy. Everyone raised each other to tell the story.”

CONCLUSION:

This is the kind of movie that will show up on a streaming service and enthrall audiences. It may not be the most in-depth portrait of marital strife, but it’s a situation to which many hassled wives and mothers will relate. Pencil it in for your evening enjoyment when it shows up on television. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

Comment with Facebook

About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com. Weekly Wilson is also the name of her podcast on the Bold Brave Media Global Network on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. (CDT).