'The Yellow Birds' is based on the novel of the same name by author Kevin Powers. The book landed on The New York Times' 100 Most Notable Books of 2012 as well as many other prestigious nominations and awards. The screenplay was adapted and written by David Lowery ('Pete's Dragon') and R.F.I. Porto ('Blue Caprice') with Alexandre Moors ('Blue Caprice') attached as the director. The film follows the relationship of two young soldiers starring Alden Ehrenreich ('Solo: A Star Wars Story') as Brandon Bartle, who is twenty-one, and Tye Sheridan ('Ready Player One') playing the part of eighteen-year-old, Daniel Murphy, as they navigate through the fear and turmoil of the Iraq War.
Bartle is given a tall order from Murphy's mother (Jennifer Aniston) to watch over and take care of her son, Daniel. The Yellow Birds was nominated for the Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize Award from the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. The film was also presented with the Cinematography Award at Sundance for the outstanding camera work of cinematographer, Daniel Landin ('Under the Skin').
When the book was brought to the attention of the director, Alexandre Moors, he immediately became riveted by the property as it was a dissimilar spin from typical war films which were usually about propaganda glorifying the prized soldier or the finest platoons. This film is a true biographic perspective which was poetic and subjective in greater detail about the internal struggles of the human goal, being away from home overseas, from society, and family constantly thinking about the safe return of their own children. The movie is an emblematic story within ambiguous stories that question the notion of war and why young people are called to sacrifice and serve on the other side of the world.
Director Alexandre Moors (left) and Jennifer Aniston as Maureen Murphy (right)
In the making for five years, the film essentially focuses on the connection between Bartle and Murphy. Moors expanded, "In the book, their bond was unquestioned and almost instant with a real feeling of intimacy. In the film, we decided it would be more interesting if that bond was something that would develop throughout. At the beginning, Bartle is basically a bit more reluctant. He's not necessarily embracing Murphy right away. It's through the experience together that their bond grows. Bartle goes from having a sense of responsibility and duty towards Murphy into truly caring for him as a younger brother. Alden (Bartle) and Tye (Murphy) were also very close during the filming and really worked together to convey that bond on screen. In some of the scenes we improvised lines and conversations not even scripted. They injected some of their real feelings and friendship into that."
Besides the relationship part of the story, making a war film comes with its own specific complications. "There's a lot of logistics involved such as flying helicopters, dealing with machinery, extras, and the use of fire. The timing on how a scene is put together can sometimes be challenging. In Morocco, we had the collaboration of the Army, but a lot of the soldiers only spoke Arabic, which made communication difficult. Morocco provided us with all the equipment and the experts. Some of the extras were from the regular army. That's what made the making of the film possible, because we were able to tap into their resources," concluded the director.
'The Yellow Birds' is a poetic and subjective perspective on war as it is left open for interpretation for the audience to contemplate and ask questions about the purpose of continuously sending young people to fight abroad. Families will continue to suffer, and nothing will change, until old men stop sending young men to fight their battles.