Comfort of Wild Birds

A screenplay written with the BFI

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
MOOD BOARD

 

EXT. SCOTTISH HIGHLAND – DAY

The day is still and light mellow.

A serious of shots: the bare feet of a girl, stumbling; the heavy boots of a man; the girl falls, her white dress stained and hair wild; the old man’s (ALECK) face, rolling wrinkles.

ALECK finds the fallen girl. He scoops her into his arms. He carries her across the land. A solitary cottage comes into view.

He struggles to open the door with the girl in his arms. Heavy breath as he pushes through with his shoulder into a small corridor.

Carries her through to a dark sitting room. The mud off his boots drops to the floor.

He lowers her onto a sofa. Pulls her dress back down so it covers her knees and retrieves a red tartan blanket. Her feet are dirty and grazed.

Through the kitchen window see him walk back out across the land pushing a wheelbarrow.

GIRL wakes and rises from the sofa. She surveys the room: picking up objects and running her finger across surfaces and fabrics.


INT. KITCHEN – DAY. (CONT) She sits at the kitchen table.

(O.S)Sounds of front door closing, heavy breathing and scraping metal.

ALECK enters struggling to pull off his boots. Washes mud from his hands at the sink. Dries them.

He turns and looks at the GIRL’s dress.

ALECK
(A Scottish accent)
Too cold for that.

He sets a kettle on the stove to boil, then takes a seat opposite her at the table. He looks her over, fidgets. Stands and washes his hands again.

The kettle whistles.

ALECK makes coffee in a cafetiere.

ALECK
Sugar?

The GIRL stays silent. He stamps the mug before her.

ALECK
Bitter then.

He takes his seat. They drink, mirroring each other.

ALECK
What’s your name?

Gesturing to himself and then her, indicating her response.

ALECK
Aleck… Aleck…
(grunts)
(beat)
No one comes to these parts.
(beat)
Bird get your tongue?
(beat)
Someone looking for you?

The GIRL stares.

Rain falls. Droplets weave on the windowpane.

ALECK’s chair scrapes the ground as he stands. He walks into the sitting room. GIRL’s P.O.V: rain falling on window. Her fingers trace the droplets. Her nails are short and dirty.

ALECK returns, blanket in hand. His face hardens. ALECK’s P.O.V: a large angular gash on the GIRL’s back and a tear in her silk dress.

He touches her shoulder. She looks to his hand upon her skin.

ALECK
Let me.


INT. KITCHEN – DAY. (LATER)

The GIRL sits on a stool by the kitchen window, the blanket over her knees. ALECK has an antique first aid box open on the table. He cleans the wound. Looks from the wound to the
corridor. He covers her wound in tape and gauze.


INT.KITCHEN – NIGHT. (LATER)

Muddy carrots, beetroot and parsnips are being washed and cut by ALECK.

The GIRL spins a spinning top at the table.

Grains poured into boiling water. Wine into a pan. ALECK dices meat – the knife on raw flesh.

ALECK turns to the girl. Knife in hand.

Spinning top topples.

ALECK
Tell me who you are.

She looks at him and then returns to the spinning top.

ALECK retrieves a pad and pen. He flattens them before her, knife still in hand.

ALECK
Write it: what you are, why you’re here.

The GIRL’S attention remains on the spinning top.

The stew boils. ALECK turns down the heat.

He slides the meat into the pan with the knife.

ALECK
You will tell me.

ALECK’s P.O.V through the window…


EXT. FIELD – NIGHT

The wind screams through the grass. Expansive darkness and a moon choked by clouds. Branches beat and bend.


INT.KITCHEN – NIGHT. (CONT)

Raindrops on the window. The knife sits drying.

The GIRL sits alone. She fiddles with a gold locket. Plays with the black hair within the pendant.

Enter ALECK who removes the lid from the stew, tastes and serves into two bowls.

He retrieves cutlery from a drawer, which he clunks in the centre of the table.

He sees the necklace; rips it from her. Hair falls about the table. Tries to gather it.

ALECK
You’ve done this.

He carries the locket to the side dresser and hangs it on an urn. Catches his breath.

ALECK
What were… how did you…
(moving towards her)
You don’t touch that. You don’t touch anything.

The GIRL walks to the stove and retrieves the two bowls of stew. She sits and eats.

ALECK
Who are you?
(beat)
Answer me god damn it.

He smashes his bowl of stew to the floor.

He paces. Comes to the table. Sits. Stands. Sits.

ALECK
(nodding to urn)
Isla.
(picks up some hair off the table)
Hair like a raven.
All fell out.
(beat)
Told her she looked like a man.
(beat)
A joke.
(beat)
First time I saw her, out on the lock: hair blowing.
(beat)
I missed it, after she died.
Missed the hair in the plug, hair in my tea. Missed it.
(beat)
Said I couldn’t sleep with her. Couldn’t kiss a man.
(beat)
She was my wild bird. Loved to walk, loved the land and its skies.
And then she couldn’t even get down the stairs.
You can’t watch that.
(beat)
I knew it was coming.
I stayed away. Left her to it.

They stare at one another.

ALECK weeps.His sobs overflowing and broken. He does not try to restrain himself. The GIRL lets him cry.

GIRL
No one dies alone.

ALECK sits slumped over the table, his cries slowly subside.

The faintest outlines of his wife move about the space. Memories of himself and her within the kitchen.


INT. UPSTAIRS LANDING – NIHGT. (LATER)

The GIRL and ALECK stand in a doorway. ALECK switches on a light, illuminating a small bedroom.

The GIRL steps into the room.

ALECK stands back.

ALECK
Night then.

He closes the door, but stands facing it a while, his hand resting on the handle. Beat. He goes to his room and closes his door.


INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT. (CONT)

The GIRL stands centre of the room in a dim pool of light. She peels the bandages from her back. Her skin is rough and blood seeps through her dress.

She moves to the window and looks up to the night.


INT – DAY. NEXT MORNING

We move through the house each room is empty and morning light filters in.

ALECK emerges from his room. Finds the door of the GIRL’s room open, room empty and bed untouched.

He moves down the stairs, but she is neither in the sitting
room nor kitchen.


INT.KITCHEN – DAY. (CONT)

ALECK touches two mugs by the side of the sink.

ALECK’s P.O.V through window: GIRL stands facing the cottage. Her hair blows and a stream of light touches her back from which two off-white wings bloom.

ALECK moves across the kitchen to the corridor.


INT. CORRIDOR – DAY. (CONT)

He peers into an empty wheelbarrow.

FLASH CUT TO: Two large dirty wings lie in the wheelbarrow.

He looks back into the kitchen.

FLASH CUT TO: An angel sits at his table, wings large and
striking.

FLASH CUT TO: The same angel stands in the centre of the
bedroom.

ALECK opens the door to the outside and steps out.


EXT. FIELD – DAY. (CONT)

Grass clings to his bare feet as he walks toward the ANGEL.

The ANGEL turns smiling. Hand outstretched.

FLASH CUT TO: ALECK’s hand hangs over the side of his bed. His eyes are wide and empty.

FADE TO white…

SUBTITLED
But we are not the stars for whom darkness has been reserved.

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