[original title: Temporada de patos]
Taking place in a middle-class flat in Mexico City over one long Sunday afternoon, Duck Season presents us with a slice-of-life story. Boredom, neglect, life’s frustrations, the fear of imminent changes (or, in some cases, the fear of the lack of change), and an array of unspoken secrets and problems – they all provide the detrimental mix that simmers behind the events of that afternoon.
Flama and his friend Moko, two average 14-year-old boys, are looking forward to a day without adults. Flama’s mother has been invited by friends, we assume (as she has prepared some food to bring), and will not be back until after nightfall. The boys’ plans for the day are very simple: order pizza, and play X-Box all day. But their plans are rudely interrupted. First by Rita, the 16-year-old girl from next door who wants to use their kitchen to prepare a cake. Then by a prolonged power cut. And finally by a petty argument over the payment for the pizza. As the three young people and the not-so-young nerdy guy who delivered the pizza are all stranded in the flat for one reason or another, their personal problems start to slowly bubble to the surface, and pubescent power games and power struggles threaten to spiral out of control. Very slowly, but steadily, this Sunday afternoon descends into mild middle-class anarchism, interrupted by bouts of self-realisation and make-shift philosophy.
As you can see, the story of Duck Season is not only slice-of-life, but also a bit minimalist in its approach.
The film opens on a slow montage that shows the bleakness of the assembly of tower blocks in which the flat is situated. While this is not some sort of socially deprived neighbourhood – the flat is far too nice for that – we can assume that this is a place where there is little to nothing to do for children, especially young teenagers. Not a problem if you are 14 years old and own an X-Box. But definitely a problem if the electricity keeps cutting out. The fact that this film is shot entirely in black&white adds to that feeling of bleakness and boredom, and we can assume that this is the main artistic reason for that choice.
The film uses quite a bit of symbolism – of objects, but also of conflicts. One central object around which much of this symbolism revolves, is a stuffy oil-painting called “Temporada de Patos” (“Duck Season”) from which the film draws its title. I do not want to reveal too much by talking about the protagonists’ problems and conflicts. The two boys have their respective issues they carry around with them. The nerdy pizza delivery guy appears too old to do this job, and he knows that his life should have taken a different direction if he had not allowed others to keep making decisions for him. Rita, meanwhile – for reasons of her own – is not pleased with the way the three male specimens mostly exclude and ignore her. She seems to be a bit of a story-teller who craves an audience; while her talent for making cakes seems as limited as her respect for other people’s privacy and property, seeing how she keeps poking her nose into every corner of the kitchen.
There is little to say about the plot, as a film like this does not have a plot in the usual sense of the word. This slice-of-life portrait is well-written and well-edited, and it has great characters, and great acting by its four main actors (Diego Cataño, Daniel Miranda, Enrique Arreola, Danny Perea). There is also some very nice cinematography.
Directed and co-written by Fernando Eimbcke, this unusual comedy-drama is not for everyone; but it is well worth your time if this type of story-telling appeals to you. Just be aware that this film is extremely slow-paced, even if you are used to this kind of art-house fare, which makes the 80 minutes of net running time feel much longer.
Rating: roughly 7 out of 10
PS: this film has an (unnecessary) post-credit scene.