Note: Some minor plot spoilers ahead for The Starling.
The Starling is currently one of the most popular movies streaming on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, might I suggest you settle in for an afternoon of quietly crying your eyes out. It’s an emotional story of loss, and is bound to hit particularly hard for anyone who has ever suffered the most unimaginable of all losses — the death of a child. It’s almost impossible to watch this movie as a parent and not put yourself in the shoes of these devastated parents, and some might be wondering if The Starling is actually based on a true story.
It’s A Story That Will Break Your Heart
The Starling tells the story of Lilly (played by Melissa McCarthy) trying to figure out how to cope with the loss of her daughter after she died from SIDS. She’s also struggling with her husband Jack (Chris O’Dowd) living at a mental health facility after going through a breakdown of his own. At home, Lilly encounters a bird in her yard who is aggressive and frequently attacks her, and eventually seeks the help of a therapist-turned-veterinarian Dr. Larry Fine (played by Kevin Kline). Through her trials with the bird, who is a starling, Lilly tries to come to terms with her own loss.
But It Is Not Based On A True, Real-Life Story
Director Theodore Melfi, who worked with McCarthy and O’Dowd before in the very fine 2014 movie St. Vincent, did not create The Starling based on a true story. Instead, the story was created by screenwriter Matt Harris.
Melfi did step in at one point and suggested a switch in the two main characters; Harris told Slash Film in an interview that the original script saw Lilly in the mental health facility and Jack holding down the fort at home. But when McCarthy signed on, they decided to flip the characters. “So we did that, and bam, it just breathed new life into the story that I had pretty much become exhausted with, to be honest,” Harris explained to the outlet.
‘The Starling’ sees Melissa McCarthy struggling with the loss of her daughter.
Was It Based On A Book?
Harris wrote the script as an original, so even though The Starling does certainly feel like it could be a book, it is not.
While The Starling might not have been based on a book, there are several very fine examples that deal with the painful loss of a child with sensitivity and beauty. Blue Nights by Joan Didion, which she wrote after the loss of her daughter, is a frank and honest memoir that deserves to be read. Baby Dust by Deanna Roy tells the story of five women who all lost their children, and try to cope together.
You can stream The Starling on Netflix now.