The Hawk is Dying is a morbid title for a morbid film. The film is disgusting in its morbidity and even more disgusting in the moments when it tries to be uplifting despite the awful events the film portrays.
It takes place in a realistic (read: horribly depressing) world where everyone is stupid and a somewhat bad person. The only escape George (Paul Giamatti) has from his dreary life is falconry, but every hawk he tries to train ends up dying. When he finds a large and beautiful hawk he insists that this one is different. Events in his family's life go horribly awry and he clings more and more to his hawk. There are hundreds of films made about obsessives trying to transcend the world they're in and they all rely on the redeemability of the characters and the audience's fascination with the obsession, which are both very weak in this film.
The Hawk is Dying stars some top rate actors. Giamatti is joined by Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain, The Station Agent) and Michael Pitt, a good, under-the-radar actor who starred in 2006's Jailbait. None of the actors are bad here, but not one of them lives up to the precedent set by their previous work. Williams plays a role very similar to the one she played in The Station Agent, but she doesn't make this admittedly weaker material come alive in the same way.
There's nothing wrong with a movie that covers dark material. In fact, despite popular belief, movies don't even have to offer an ending that offers hope and relief for the audience, but the material must be believable and resonant. Roger Ebert once said that no good movie is depressing and that all bad movies are depressing. The Hawk is Dying is one depressing movie.