Pigeon Film Review: Paul Sliwinski offers the slow burn genesis of an anti-hero
In the roughly 20 minute short, Pigeon, writer-director Paul Sliwinski demonstrates the danger of putting a military veteran back in the line of work. Like Walter White sought money to pay for a cancer treatment, Earl - played by Earl Fechter - seeks money to get his son, Larry - played by Patrick Boyle - out of a tough situation. Little context is offered to the audience on just what kind of mess Larry is in, and where Earl is going to find the money. The film explores these questions, and in doing so reveals the deeper theme of being pigeonholed.
Pigeon requires some commitment from the audience, as it does have an intense catharsis, but it takes its time getting there. The slow pace offers a chance to capture the foreboding tone. There is time to empathize with the protagonist. Much like the pigeon he keeps, Earl has a fragility to him. He is seen reading, trying to get his life back together, taking care of his pet pigeon. Not the typical tough-guy M.O.
Most vets come back with some form of PTSD or may have joined the military to escape former bad behavior, yet in helping his own son, Earl is sucked back into the seedy world he once knew.
There is a mundane, organic quality to the film. A bleak, gray coloring fills the frames, and seems to echo how Earl probably sees the world. Composer Patrick Reynolds features what sounds like a warped ticking clock in the main track. It fits Earl’s fear of running out of time and mortality.
At times the film could feel too subtle, where the audience might wonder who a character is and miss a detail in the process, but the subtlety is also part of the film’s strength. It’s a film that requires active participation to appreciate. It hails back to old mobster films or shows like The Sopranos.
The dichotomy between Earl’s two son’s reveals something interesting about Earl. On one hand, Larry approaches Earl both calm and methodical asking for a favor. On the other hand, his other son, played by Brandon Wahlberg, is a hothead willing to seek retribution for his brother. They feel like actualizations of Earl’s own personality, living embodiments of Earl’s strength and weakness.
Though the arc of Earl spurring into action feels realized, there is enough left unsaid to possibly explore a feature or a television show about this military contractor. The film leaves us with an exciting near-pilot length short where we come to understand how a protagonist makes a decision he can’t turn away from much like the anti-heroes that came before him in TV canon. The high production quality from Mel R. Pratt, Maria Servellon and team really shape Pigeon into something special with clever directing, grounded performances, driving composition, and a compelling theme.