Duck Season is a real slice-of-life film. There is barely any plot to speak of, and nothing much happens on the surface. Nevertheless, the movie has a real pull because the characters are richly drawn and there’s a lot going on in the margins. Watch it passively and you might wonder how it even qualifies as a movie; watch it with your full attention and you will see a charming and surprisingly meaningful look at adolescent angst.
The central characters in this Spanish-language comedy/drama are 14 year-old Flama (Daniel Miranda) and his best friend Moko (Diego Catano). Flama lives in a small apartment with his mother, as his parents have recently gotten divorced. It bothers him greatly that they fight over belongings, most notably a painting of ducks that sits over the TV set. Flama’s mother goes out for the day, leaving him alone with Moko. They play video games until the power suddenly goes out. With no electronics to keep them company, the boys decide to create their own fun.
They start by ordering a pizza, then refusing to pay for it when the delivery guy, Ulises (Enrique Arreola), fails to get it there within 30 minutes. (He had to take the stairs since the elevator was out.) Ulises won’t leave until he gets paid, so now there are three people in the apartment. Then a 16 year-old neighbor girl named Rita (Danny Perea) shows up wanting to use Flama’s stove, since his is gas and hers is electric. She bakes a cake in the kitchen and later, with little else to do while she waits, makes a pass at Moko.
Duck Season is set entirely in one location. It shows how these four people come together during a blackout. With nothing to do, they eventually start talking about themselves. This is where the movie starts to reveal that there’s more going on than meets the eye. Each of the characters has an interesting story to tell, dilemma to contend with, or trait to exhibit. Flama, for instance, resents his parents’ fighting and eventually – out of sheer boredom – stumbles across a way to make his displeasure known in a surprisingly destructive (but poignant) way. Moko, meanwhile, is experiencing a sexual awakening. Like all 14 year-olds, he is curious about sex, and the movie goes in unexpected directions in showing the depth of his curiosity.
The supporting characters are just as compelling. We eventually figure out that Rita is less a teen temptress than a young woman discovering the sensual power of her gender over men. Perhaps most intriguing of all is Ulises who, over the course of the day, reveals that being a pizza deliveryman is a significant bump in the road of his life’s dream, but one which he is determined to navigate. The substance of the movie is in the way these four people connect and find common ground they never imagined they shared.
Director Fernando Eimbcke brings a lot of humor to the film, beautifully capturing adolescent friendship and the way crushing boredom often leads to warped creativity. He also provides an interesting style. Duck Season’s visuals are geared to match the static quality of what’s happening on screen. The movie is filmed in black-and-white, with a camera that never moves, except in a few flashback scenes. The effect makes you feel like you’re in the apartment with Flama and the gang on a lazy Sunday.
One of the hardest things to do in a movie is to take a close, emotionally honest look at what people are feeling. Many films feel the need to manufacture crises for the characters to deal with in order to show their nature. Duck Season is different. It finds truth in the ordinary, everyday details. It’s a small picture that you may or may not have heard of, but it’s worth seeking out.
The DVD is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it contains the theatrical trailer. Duck Season is available from Warner Home Video.
( out of four)
Duck Season is rated R for language and some drug content. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.
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