Parents' Guide to

The Yellow Birds

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

War violence, language, shocking moments in mature drama.

Movie R 2018 94 minutes
The Yellow Birds Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This adaptation of Kevin Powers' acclaimed Iraq War novel has poetic moments and strong acting, but also a strange lack of tension. Director Alexandre Moors finds beauty in strange places in The Yellow Birds, such as a stretch of lush green in the desert or a moment of connection at a barracks party. He elicits centered performances from his cast, including strong support by Aniston as a desperate mother, Collette as an exasperated one, and Huston as a veteran leader who defies the easy dramatic classifications of "good" and "bad." And the two leads are outstanding. Sheridan (Mud, Joe, Ready Player One) is a soulful actor who deftly conveys Murph's naïveté and eventual crisis. He's instantly sympathetic. Ehrenreich, who has swung hard from impressive work (Hail, Caesar) to less so (Solo: A Star Wars Story) is focused and settled as the damaged young man at the story's center. His Bartle is a true everyman -- without direction, not a star soldier, not a failure. The difference in him before and after he reaches his personal breaking point is clear; the sometimes-poetic narration seems to come from somewhere that didn't exist until it was unearthed by his experiences.

That said, there's a kind of emotional and dramatic inevitability to the unraveling of the central mystery that lowers the film's stakes. This may be due to the narrative's time-jumping, which sometimes works and sometimes feels forced. And the choices involved in the central incident aren't easy to understand. They feel overly rushed and easy on screen, so we don't feel the fear or horror that key incident requires. The Yellow Birds' lack of dramatic tension may stem from a filmmaking choice to focus on the characters, a streamlining of the book's plot and relationships, or insufficient shaping in the editing room. Whatever the cause, the unfortunate result is a lower level of engagement than this otherwise well-made drama deserves.

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