Sean Randall is just an average black sheep teen: skulking, rejected and paranoid. The school jocks are out to get him, but it’s Sean's online retaliation that makes him the threat to society. Behind bars, his life starts down the familiar path of the prison movie with a fresh teenage take that mixes modern bullying fears with a surprising path to redemption.
Don’t let appearances fool you. Sean may at first seem like all the things you’d expect from an outcast in a troubled teen movie but Blackbird isn’t chock-a-block full with typical conventions. Starting with the police raid that might end a movie-of-the-week type school rampage, we get to know him fast and quick. His is a daily world rife with contradictory messages: a single loving father but a fully AWOL mom, “close” friends who won’t stand up for him, beloved hockey jocks who pick him on constantly and an only confidante, Deanna, who sits happily at the centre of jock lust. It seems simply fitting that his undoing would be his only release valve, a blog full of empty threats and blind rage-fueled frustration with the world.
But the real meat of Blackbird is Sean’s prison life. Embracing a Shawshank Redemption prison-as-release idea, it twists Tim Robbin’s classic dilemmas with modern teenage reality. Sean has the opportunity to be either inside or outside the jailhouse walls, depending on the deals he’s willing to strike with others and himself. Outside he’s a prisoner to the violent on-line personae he created and a slave to legal proceedings. Inside he’s equally a prisoner to both plus he’s provoked even more mercilessly to act out violent revenge. Those things he thought defined him are all given a chance to haunt him no matter where he goes. But as the layers of his armoured shell fall away, he finds chances to make uneasy choices that can ultimately set him free.