There is a popular belief that surrounds the Magpie, a unique bird often considered to be one of the more intelligent birds and one of the few birds to have a documented ritual of grief and honoring of its dead. When one Magpie comes across a dead one, they will call to others and collectively they will bring pine needles to the deceased body and hold vigil.
This ritual and journey is at the core of Greg Green's Magpie Funeral, a low-key dramatic feature recently released by Indie Rights and available via your usual streaming outlets including Amazon, Youtube, Tubi, and Google Play.
The story centers around Sy (Darren E. Burrows, Northern Exposure), a wannabe screenwriter who pays his bills by directing tedious shows for a local television station under the taunting eye of Randy (David Weisenberg). Despite years of submitting screenplays, Sy's dreams remain unfulfilled and only one friend, Jonnie (Jasmin Haugstuen Please), seemingly believes in his potential. When that friend is killed in a tragic accident, Sy is forced come face-to-face with his mortality and whether or not he wants to further commit himself to his ever elusive dreams.
Magpie Funeral is a low-key drama, a meaningful story brought to life by a talented ensemble and an especially strong performance by Darren E. Burrows as Sy. Burrows poignantly captures the little nuances of the grief journey and the emotional resonance of a life that feels incomplete. There's a tenderness in his performance that is simply sublime.
Along the way, Sy encounters the similarly grieving Nancy (Meredith Shank) and her daughter Lisa (Elizabeth Leach). This changes Sy's journey, altering his life's definitions and perceptions and creating for all of us a familiar yet engaging story.
Shank shines as Nancy, a successful writer whose grief has created writer's block and difficulty moving forward. Her story with unfold alongside Sy's, though their paths are different and believable. Young Elizabeth Leach is also an absolute gem here.
David Weisenberg is appropriately smarmy as Randy, a relentless and toxic naysayer who seemingly takes joy in Sy's ongoing failures as defined by Randy himself.
Lensing by David Navarro is strong throughout Magpie Funeral's 88-minute running time. While there's never really a time when you forget that this is a low-budget indie, Magpie Funeral is immersively engaging thanks to the script co-penned by Green and John T. Sweeney and a terrific chemistry shared by Burrows with Shank and Leach. I sure wouldn't mind seeing this trio in another film.
With intelligence and insight, Magpie Funeral is definitely worth checking out and yet another rewarding release from Indie Rights.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic