Birds of Neptune is an indie drama written, produced, and directed by Portland native Steven Richter and is the featured film of opening night for the Portland Film Festival. The movie stars Britt Harris, Molly Elizabeth Parker, Kurt Conroyd, Lauren Luiz, and Christian Blair.
Rachel and Mona (Harris and Parker) are sisters who have lost their parents and are trying to live in the family home while coping with their loss and memories that continue to haunt them. Things suddenly change when Mona's new boyfriend Zach (Conroyd) begins to force his influence on the household while Rachel turns to her own friends and her music as a way to escape the realities that are crashing down on her.
Steven Richter has created a film that will leave you feeling confused, angry, joyful, and just about every other emotion you can think of. Richter allows you to decide whether you are going to like each of the characters or not rather than throwing out obvious cues as to who he feels the protagonists and antagonists should be. Richter also depends heavily on his cast to deliver performances that make you feel like these are real people sitting in the room with you rather than stylized characters created for entertainment's sake and each of them delivers in nearly flawless fashion.
I especially liked Kurt Conroyd's take on Zach who, while being a major catalyst of the narrative, is also at times an astonished observer although I suppose that might only make sense once you watch the film. Britt Harris is also just lovely as Rachel, playing her as a naive young woman who is determined to hold on to something that resembles a home even though what she has is about as dysfunctional of a lifestyle as one could live. Through all of that, her character somehow remains grounded while everyone else just seems to be off their rocker. Which is sort of the point of the whole thing so it works.
Birds of Neptune is a story that will stick with you because of how raw and painfully honest it can be although the dark undertones are balanced out nicely by a whimsical, almost fairy tale quality. This is also a story about a group of young people who have no idea what they are doing and don't really accomplish anything, yet it all makes sense and seems very important. For a film maker from Portland, this is about as hipster as it gets even though it's probably trying desperately to avoid that sort of label.
Congratulations, Portland Film Festival, this is your perfect opening night film.