SMALL BROWN BIRD

TAVISTOCK FILMS - as PROD

Romance - Development 2017

Sylvia’s social life is about as barren as the wildlife reserve she manages, until a rare migrant bird tempts several hundred birdwatching men into her remote and fragile world, including Henry - an investment analyst, renowned warbler expert and confirmed bachelor.

    • Year of production
    • 2017
    • Genres
    • Romance, Comedy
    • Countries
    • UNITED KINGDOM
    • Languages
    • ENGLISH
    • Budget
    • 3 - 5 M$
    • Duration
    • 130 mn
    • Writer(s)
    • Paul CAMPBELL
    • Producer(s)
    • Janet SMITH
    • Synopsis
    • SYLVIA lives with her mum, MARIE, on a windswept nature reserve on the east coast of England. Her life is quiet, safe and predictable. She runs the Reserve with the limited assistance of Marie and an old family friend, KEN. Money is tight, but they muddle along, trying to make ends meet. Then, one night a damaging storm blows in an exhausted small brown bird. Despite its unprepossessing appearance, it’s incredibly rare – a Phylloscopus coronatus – the birdspotting find of the century. Within hours, Sylvia’s sanctuary becomes the focus of the greatest “twitch” Britain has ever known, with obsessive men from all over the country descending on its quiet dunes and beaches. The Bird, quite sensibly, goes into hiding.
      Sylvia resents the arrivals and their “stamp-collecting” mentality, but Marie gets to work pairing her off with ALAN, one of the more attractive twitchers. However, Sylvia finds herself more interested in a less obvious prospect, HENRY, a businessman and warbler expert, who is surprisingly sympathetic to her work on the Reserve. Henry too is drawn to Sylvia, who is so different to the women he normally meets – women like PENNIE, who has followed him to the Reserve in order to clinch a deal. Henry and Sylvia find an excuse to spend time together ringing birds, and their mutual attraction becomes obvious.
      Alan, piqued by Sylvia’s interest in Henry, points out that Henry is very rich and suggests that she is chasing him for a contribution to the Reserve. She wasn’t, but she can’t resist the opportunity and gets a significant cheque from Henry. But the gift makes her uncomfortable and she finds herself questioning her own motives. Pennie is frustrated by Henry’s growing obsession with Sylvia and his refusal to talk business. She deliberately gives Sylvia the impression that she and Henry are an item. Sylvia confronts a confused Henry and tries to return the cheque.
      SAMANTHA, Henry’s assistant, encourages him to keep trying, if only because she herself is enjoying the attentions of a local farmer, CRAIG. And it’s Craig who corrects Sylvia’s impression about Henry and Pennie. Sylvia apologises to Henry for her previous rudeness, and the two of them get on like a house on fire. Sylvia suggests that he might stay for a few days, but Henry has business to return to and won’t commit to staying any longer than it takes to see the elusive Bird. That evening everyone gets very excited when the twitchers hear the Bird singing. But Sylvia spots the Bird first and frightens it off so that Henry doesn’t see it.
      The next day it rains. The Twitchers take shelter in the rudimentary visitor centre. Sylvia is the only cheerful person there, apart from Pennie, who takes the opportunity to sit Henry down and force him to listen to her business proposals. Sylvia teases Henry by flirting with Alan. Henry is so frustrated by the whole experience that he agrees in principle to Pennie’s plans just to shut her up. And then he leads the twitchers in another Bird hunt, despite the rain. When the rain becomes a downpour, Henry and Sylvia take shelter in the same hide. Alone together for the first time all day, they finally get to kiss. But, before things get too heated, they’re interrupted by Alan. Henry walks out, and Alan teases Sylvia about her fundraising methods. Sylvia floors him.
      Pennie invites Henry and Sylvia out to a restaurant to celebrate the business deal. Sylvia rifles through her limited wardrobe, but can find nothing to match what Pennie will be wearing. Marie and Sylvia get into a silly argument about her going out with Henry. Ken comforts a distraught Marie, and reveals his love for her. Sylvia goes shopping and, foolishly, is tempted into cashing Henry’s cheque to pay for her extravagances.
      The meal at the restaurant is a triumph. Pennie looks good, but Sylvia makes a late, and stunning, arrival. She proves herself more than capable of living in Henry’s world. But then disaster strikes. Pennie makes a barbed comment about how much Sylvia’s outfit must have cost, and the truth comes out, that Sylvia, the committed environmentalist, has spent Henry’s donation on fripperies and silk. Henry’s horrified. But it gets worse. Henry’s investment in Pennie’s scheme turns out to be an investment that would flood hectares of tropical rain forest. Sylvia storms out of the restaurant in disgust.
      The following morning the weather is fine. All around her, happy twitchers go back to hunting for the Bird, but Sylvia’s in a foul mood. When Henry tries to apologise and explain, she shouts him down and walks out. Alan makes an honest attempt to smooth the waters, but an awkward joke backfires and he accidentally convinces Henry that Sylvia was only ever after his money. Henry decides to leave. Stopping only so that Samantha can leave Craig a note and Henry can sack Pennie, they drive off to the nearest airport.
      Meanwhile, the twitchers have found the Bird. But a late arrival, known as BIG BAD JOHN, spoils the party by claiming that the Bird is not a coronatus after all. Alan is furious at missing out on the latest addition to his list, but the only person with more authority than Big Bad John on this subject is Henry, and he’s gone. Sylvia discovers that Henry knew nothing about the details of Pennie’s plans. Together, Sylvia, Craig and Alan find they all have reasons to get Henry back, so they head for the airport in Alan’s car. And Henry too has talked things through with Samantha and realised he has to get back to the Reserve. They all meet in the airport car park and a reconciliation looks certain until the question of money comes up again. Sylvia is so desperate not to be seen as a gold-digger, that she refuses Henry and his money. She takes Alan’s car and drives back to the Reserve.
      Back at the Reserve, the Bird has flown off again, Sylvia takes out her frustration on the remaining twitchers, chasing them as they pursue the Bird. Henry and the others return in Henry’s van, and Henry cooks up a way to establish an independent trust that would support the Reserve and allow Sylvia to accept his money as well as accepting him. In the dunes, a disconsolate Pennie comes across the Bird and they have a moment of beauty together which might just make Pennie a better person. Samantha and Craig make up for lost time, while all the other players come together at the traps where the Bird has got itself caught. Marie and Ken hold hands. Henry and Sylvia confess their love. Henry identifies the Bird as the first ever British sighting of a Phylloscopus coronatus. And Henry and Sylvia kiss, as the Bird escapes from their hands and flies off over the dunes.
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