When a loner’s life is changed by the sudden appearance of a mysterious parrot with an unusual vocabulary, he is forced to come to terms with the personal issues that have plagued him – but after the parrot causes him to meet an unusual young woman who takes a romantic interest in him, will he be able to significantly change enough to maintain a relationship with her?
Lyman’s social skills are perhaps more than just a little bit wanting – he barely ever speaks to anyone and doesn’t have a reputation for initiating conversation with anyone, regardless of whether he knows them well or not. Given this personality quirk of his, Lyman has what might be the perfect job for someone in his position – he’s a highway worker for the state of New Mexico. With no family and no friends, Lyman seems perfectly content with his lifestyle of working a dangerous night shift cleaning up the roads and assisting people who have been in accidents or are experiencing car trouble.
Then, one day while eating breakfast in the trailer he calls a home, an exotic looking parrot flies in through his open door. Right off the bat, the parrot starts chatting up a storm with Lyman, including using quite a few unusual phrases, which, in the context of their interaction, almost makes it appear as though the bird is trying to engage him in an actual conversation. Mystified by his new friend, Lyman decides to care for the parrot while trying to find its rightful owner so that the bird may be returned to its home.
While researching the parrot in the library of the small community college where he takes classes, he meets Fiona, a free-spirited young woman who takes an immediate fancy to Lyman. Despite the fact that their personality is the polar opposite of each other, they strike up a friendship as Fiona offers to help Lyman in his quest to locate the owner of the parrot. But when it becomes clear to Lyman that Fiona’s intentions are to be more than merely his friend, will he somehow be able to allow another person into his life?
A small independent film made on the cheap, “A Bird Of The Air” focuses on its quirky tale, rather than trying to sell itself to an audience by its stars because the movie really doesn’t have any – except for a couple of cameo appearances by familiar faces. At times trying to be funny and at others dramatic, it almost doesn’t seem to know what quite to make of itself. One gets the sense that the filmmakers tried to adhere as closely to its source material as possible. Does it translate? Well, it’s rather hard to say; I found myself wondering at various points during this screening where the story was supposed to be going.
There are some good performances in this movie – especially by the young actress who plays the part of Fiona – but its story has something of a fable-like quality to it and to truly enjoy the movie, you have to acknowledge that and buy into it from the very start. For me, the problem was the fact that the parrot is used as what Hitchcock used to refer to as The McGuffin – it’s really irrelevant to the plot, except as a contrivance to bring the two lead characters together so they can fall in love with each other and set the mechanics of a romance into forward motion.
Prior to the screening, Director Margaret Whitton was interviewed; subsequent to the screening, the two main actors were interviewed – Jackson Hurst (Lyman) and Rachel Nichols (Fiona). Whitton said she had first read the novel on which the film is based about a dozen years ago and wasn’t able to secure the rights to make the movie until years later due to the fact that Oprah Winfrey had originally purchased the option; persistently, she kept inquiring about the availability of its option over the years and once it became available, she pounced on it and decided to make it her directorial debut. Hurst mentioned that while he has done film, TV and stage, he prefers making movies. Nichols said she had something of an unusual audition for the role in the sense that much of it consisted more of an interview with the prospective filmmakers than a reading of Fiona’s part.