Cults and their innerworkings are a fascinating topic as none are truly the same despite many similarities. The Aviary written and directed by Jennifer Raite and Chris Cullari dives into another aspect of cult-life, that being the mental influence. This story centers on two women Jillian (Malin Akerman) and Blair (Lorenza Izz). When the film opens, they are fleeing across the New Mexico desert having just made a quiet escape from their secluded life in a cult led by the mysterious Seth (Chris Messina).
Something unique about this movie was this mental angle of the story. The focus isn’t on life inside the cult, or the preaching’s of its typically charismatic leaders. There is no build-up of the (will they be able to escape) and that was appealing. These two characters are prepped and have made their break for freedom and how this film unfolds by exploring the influence of Seth on their mental stability even when not around them, was ripe for compelling storytelling.
The Aviary effectively veers into this realm a time or two as Jillian and Blair both have their trauma from Seth. It affects each of them differently and how it affected the success of their escape was fascinating at times. On the other side the pacing was a bit slow. How this angle of the story progresses was a bit one-note as well. After a few hurdles in the desert as their minds play tricks on them, the suspense slowly diminishes from the movie having not much else to rely on in terms of character or story-layering.
The performances certainly were great. Akerman and Izzo carry 99% of this movie and they were intriguing. I connected to each of them in different ways and they each had their own unique qualities that connected you to the overall impact this cult had on their lives. The story also explores the concept of someone not even realizing, or thinking they are in a cult. This was teased in the dialogue that with more time developing, could’ve been a more resonating story wrinkle.
The Aviary bills itself as more of a thriller, but it actually relies on the emotional trauma and plays out much more methodical than the trailers would suggest. The cinematography is immersive, and the character performances heighten the intensity of a handful of key scenes. You can feel the fatigue with Jillian and Blair but more so from a repetitive second act that feels like it circles itself with little forward movement. The final act is modestly satisfying however, and it does leave you thinking. It’s just too bad The Aviary didn’t surround its interesting concepts with more connective substance. This would’ve possibly upped the pace and given the viewer more layers to sink their imaginations into.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.