by Sarah Johnson
The Blue Jay, a romance written by one of its lead actors, Mark Duplass, tells the story of two high school sweethearts who meet again by chance 20 years after graduation. The pair catch up over coffee at a local diner called The Blue Jay where Sarah Paulson shines as the other wing of this estranged, yet oddly familiar, duo.
While the coffee is “awful,” according to the dialogue that is at times, tense and at other times, playfully teasing, the story is sweet. It’s a romance in the purest sense, dealing with a wide range of emotions — one in which the audience journeys memory lane with likable, complex characters who spend the night reminiscing over music and memorabilia from the early 90’s: flannel shirts, journals and yearbook photos. When the two laughingly sway to Annie Lennox’s “No More I Love You’s,” any sentimental who high schooled during the same era (like me) is sure to feel a swift kick to that particular spot in the gut where memories locked away in song lay hiding.
Enough said! Because my intention is not to ruin a beautiful story with “spoilers.” Rather, my intention is to praise a film, which is not rated and rife with foul language, but that deals with abortion in a way that is truly breathtaking. The moment — you’ll know it when you’ve arrived — is beyond any a-typical “pro-life” or “pro-choice” themed drama. It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It’s remarkably human. Mark Duplass, the writer and the actor, blasts a million miles up, up and away from either political stance in the choreography and execution of his art, and all I can say is bravo.
Both pro-lifers and the pro-choice crowd serve to be enlightened and to grow in compassion for one another because of the truth Duplass brings to the table in this film. In one corner, we watch a father suffer, weeping for the child he lost decades ago. In the other, we hear the story of a young and abandoned pregnant girl whose complicated decision “tortured” her. Apologies are given and received, but no blame is laid. The audience is left to wonder whether the two would have been better having never gone through with the abortion. But the audience also clearly sees that Amanda, the character played by Paulson, led a life successful in so many ways — ways that would have been improbable as a teenage mother. And it’s in this believable, realistic storytelling that Duplass sheds light on a complicated issue that’s too often oversimplified.
The Blue Jay was released in September of last year at the Toronto Film festival and is now streaming on Netflix.
Sarah Johnson lives in the coal country region of Pennsylvania with her family where they stomp through wooded glens and creek beds, seeking out the wonder.