Saturday, December 12, 2020



The year is 2024 and COVID-23 has mutated to a powerful variant that Quarantine Zones are now required to isolate the infected. Considered as modern-day concentration camps, a trip to the Q-Zone means there is no coming back. The Department of Sanitation has Los Angeles in a tight grip, with daily temperature checks mandated by law via a mobile app, failure of which means game over. Much of the population are under strict lockdown and only the “Munies”, individuals with immunity to the virus, can roam around the city freely by virtue of their yellow immunity bracelets. Nico (KJ Apa) is one of them and makes good use of his status to earn money via courier deliveries. His girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson) is living with her grandmother in an apartment complex. When the old lady suddenly develops a fatal fever, Nico must race against time to secure an immunity pass for Sara via the black market, which leads him to wealthy illegal immunity pass dealer Piper Griffin (Demi Moore).

I must say that Songbird has a promising premise but fails by focusing too much on the COVID-flavored Romeo & Juliet subplot. Remember when Contagion came out and big Hollywood names were cast in minute roles that allowed the pandemic to be framed from the perspective of multiple stakeholders? That doesn’t happen here. What you get is your typical teenybopper love story that does not really add anything substantial to the current discourse. When you do that, it is called “cashing-in” on a shared global catastrophe that is far from over. People will get annoyed.

And annoyed they are. Songbird could have been another Contagion had it chosen to analyze what would happen to the world should this Coronavirus crisis get worse. While we get a glimpse of the systems in place such as immunity bracelets and UV cleansing sanitation machines, the screenplay doesn't elaborate on those and focuses more on the love-conquers-all angle. You don't really need COVID as a background for such storylines. No wonder a lot of people are pissed, because for someone who has experienced this virus firsthand, Songbird reduces that experience to something so trivial that it borders on offensive.

There are also some loopholes. Is Sara really immune? If she, in fact, is, then why the hell did they have to go through all that shit just to get her out? If we are to believe that being immune is the new most sought-after status anyone in this pandemic movie universe could ever want, then shouldn’t there be systems in place to assure that everyone who is immune would get the appropriate proof for it? Their lives depend on it after all. But then again, there would have been no story had that been the case.

While there are scenes that make your heart race, the contrived nature of plot development is enough to make you cringe. Even the climax is too cheesy that you would rather throw your TV out of the window than go through that very convenient resolution. It wouldn’t be long before films tackling this pandemic start coming out in bulk, but for something that is still so fresh because we are still experiencing it, at least make an effort so we could learn something from it or highlight certain human qualities that will bring us hope in these trying times. If we wanted another teenybopper movie, Netflix already has dozens of those in their playlist. For free.

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