Change in the Air
A peaceful community is forever changed when a mysterious young woman moves in. As the quirky locals embrace her, their lives soon improve—though they can’t help but notice that their strange new neighbor has a secret.
Wren Miller gets a big bag full of mail almost every day, it seems, and almost everybody in her quiet suburban New York neighborhood—the geeky, self-doubting mailman who delivers it, her pathologically nosy neighbor, the grouchy police detective and even a guy who’d rather watch birds than girls—wants to know what she’s up to. I’ve watched it twice, and I’m still not sure what makes Rachel Brosnahan’s character tick.
She’s a young woman with a determined stride going someplace every day, but nobody’s good at keeping tabs on her. The movie starts with an elderly man who likes to jingle change in his hands and who deliberately walks out into the street and gets hit by an oncoming car. Wren calls the police, and the cranky detective, the aptly named Moody Burkhart (Aidan Quinn), can’t seem to get hold of her for more information about what she saw because she’s hiding from him for reasons unknown. Weirder still, later in the movie we learn that Wren called in the accident before it happened; the responding ambulance driver turned the corner in time to see Walter (M. Emmet Walsh) get hit. Walter survives, seemingly no worse for the wear, and definitely no more talkative.
Wren is a curious figure from start to finish. She immediately recognizes rare birds that requires the expertise of her neighbor Arnie, a dedicated bird-watcher, to identify. His alcoholic wife Jo Ann, or “Jo Jo,” (Mary Beth Hurt) takes nosiness to annoyingly felonious levels; she asks rude questions and pries through Wren’s mail—actually stealing some of it by breaking into her apartment—and then whines when Arnie calls her out for all the above. When Jo Jo pointedly asks Wren what she does with all that mail, Wren answers that she “can’t say” and that “it’s complicated.”
Jo Jo gets into her husband’s car and even tails Wren one day, despite having no driver’s license, no ability to navigate around shrubbery and no apparent inclination to follow stop signs. Wren finally confronts her, gently asking her to stop.
Wren, however, knows Jo Jo’s secrets without having to pry through her mail or break into Jo Jo’s house. She knows Jo Jo stole her mail and the exact drawer in which she hid it. She knows that Jo Jo’s 3-year-old granddaughter Alison died of apparent heatstroke in a car on Jo Jo’s watch 18 years earlier and that it caused an enduring rift with Jo Jo’s daughter-in-law. And we’re left to wonder if, just maybe, Wren might be Alison all grown up in angelic form. Or is she, as Moody seems to suspect, somebody else presumed dead?
Donna Olson (Macy Gray), from whom Wren recently began renting the apartment above the garage, is one of the few who doesn’t care what Wren is up to as long as the rent is on time. But she’s there if nothing else, to carry the movie’s bird theme. We have a Wren, Arnie the bird-watcher, and Donna, playing “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” on the piano, while Wren watches and listens at the window, unnoticed. And there’s something even more fowl to come.
All in all, Change in the Air will delight bird lovers everywhere, and maybe even a few movie lovers who aren’t in search of a discernible point to all that happens. What Donna says about live concert experience also applies to this movie: “You have to go into it knowing that you’re not going to know.” What we do know is that no company that calls itself Dove can possibly be against birds of a feather, and with only the mildest language concerns, this movie earns Dove Approval for Ages 12+.
The Dove Take
Even if you watch this movie with an eagle eye, large parts of it will still have that wild goose chase feel. The challenge is to figure out why the caged birds sing, and what they’re chirping about.