We can’t stand the idea of tragedy happening for no reason at all. As humans, we crave for reasons. Some people look for answers within their own minds, while others look for them in the real world. The former often end up blaming themselves, while the latter leashes out their emotions on others. Theodore Melfi’s The Starling narrates the story of two such individuals who suffer from tragic grief and, in turn, damage their marriage. Will they be able to follow the light at the end of the tunnel, or will they quit like everyone else?
A prologue scene depicts an American couple, Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack Maynard (Chris O’Dowd), who celebrate the arrival of their newborn daughter, Katie. The couple lovingly make plans for an uncertain future, unable to foresee what tragedy awaits ahead. Katie dies due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) that breaks down the couple.
A year later, Jack, diagnosed with suicidal depression, admits himself to the New Horizons mental health program. While Lilly copes with the tragedy in the real world, working in a department store to support herself.
Every Tuesday, Lilly attends a community program at New Horizons to help Jack recover faster. However, Jack’s therapist, Regina Miller, finds Lilly struggling with loss. Regina advises Lilly to see her therapist friend, Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline), who may help her move on. The following day, Lilly visits Larry’s “Best Friend Clinic” and discovers that he is not a therapist anymore. Larry has become a vet but still takes out time to listen to Lilly’s grief. He feels Lilly’s pain but fails to help her and advises visiting the clinic if she has an animal problem.
The suggestion hints at the arrival of the problem. To cope with the loss, Lilly starts gardening vegetables at her grandfather’s farmhouse in Florida. However, as Lilly plows the garden, a starling attacks her and scratches her forehead. Lilly constantly visits Larry to get rid of the bird and, in turn, shares her grief with the doctor. A wild starling defending its territory connects the three weary souls and eventually help them to move on.
‘The Starling’ Ending Explained
SIDS is an unexplained syndrome, yet Jack channelled his emotions into finding the answers to it. And when he got none, he simply blamed himself for Katie’s death. Suffering from depression, Jack later attempted suicide, but Lilly intervened and saved him. However, even in the mental program, a sceptical Jack was in denial of the loss. He tricked the doctors and didn’t take his meditation. Jack didn’t want to move on.
In the real world, the Starling captivated Lilly’s attention and kept her busy. It probably helped her to think about other things instead of Katie. But Dr. Larry could sense what Lilly was doing. She was channeling her emotions to get rid of or kill the bird, which wasn’t a sane thing to do. Larry explained that the only solution to their problem was, Jack and Lilly needed to talk to each other about Katie’s death.
A confrontation led to an emotional argument, and at last, Lilly informed Jack that she had gotten rid of Katie’s belongingness in her attempt to move on. It broke down Jack, who later refused to see or talk to Lilly. Larry felt guilty about the misunderstandings and visited Jack but failed to convince or persuade him to talk to Lilly. In the meantime, Lilly accidentally threw a stone at the Starling and injured the bird. Larry operated the Starling, and Lilly brought it back to the house to take care of it.
Jack finally accepted that he was depressed and opened the parcels filled with his favorite candy snowballs that Lilly brought for him on every visit to the clinic. Jack attended Regina’s class and explained that he had been in and out of depression since his 20s. He visited a few therapists at first, but after a while, he quit on them. Jack stubbornly believed that he could deal with his own life and quit on himself or the people who loved him. It was always easy to quit for him, unlike his wife, Lilly, who just kept hoping and moving in the world. And for once, for once, Jack didn’t want to quit on her.
While treating the Starling, Larry explained a similar philosophy to Lilly and chanted, “we are not meant to exist in the world alone, on our own.” Soon after, Jack and Lilly bridged the gaps between them and made peace with their past. The couple was ready to walk towards the uncertain future together.
And yes, when Jack and Lilly came back to the house, the Starling called a companion too to maintain the equilibrium. The two Starlings attacked Jack and Lilly in the garden, and it was a happy ending.
The Starling is a 2021 drama-comedy film directed by Theodore Melfi. It is streaming on Netflix.