Austin Film Festival Review: For the Birds

Birds are more than pets in this quietly probing character study

Richard Miron’s documentary feature debut For the Birds follows the bond between 50-something Kathy Murphy and her primary reason for getting up every morning: The flock of 100-plus birds housed in her backyard.

They provide her with a smile and give her motivation and a connective bond she cannot find elsewhere (not even with her husband, who gradually drifts away as the ordeal unfolds). This genuine adoration for these confined creatures, all of whom she’s named, has a questionable effect from the outset, and the concerns about their conditions are furthered once the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary intervenes. Murphy’s mental health is clearly in question throughout, with Miron’s verité approach noting her blunt, uneasy demeanor in the face of reasonable authority.

Through five years of probing Murphy's life, Miron doesn’t attempt to probe into this woman’s psyche for specific effect. Instead, he lets the circumstances of her increasingly peculiar life draw the narrative along. Its end point may come as a surprise to those presuming this would only be a tale of a woman’s unhealthy relationship with an array of feathered friends.


For the Birds

Mon. Oct 29, 4:30pm, Galaxy Highland

Austin Film Festival runs Oct. 25 - Nov. 1. Tickets and info at austinfilmfestival.com.

Find more of our AFF coverage, including news, reviews, and interviews, at austinchronicle.com/AFF.

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