Duck Season (2004; 2006, U.S. release)

Rated R for language and some drug content.

Starring Enrique Arreola, Diego Cataņo, Daniel Miranda, Danny Perea.
Written and directed by Fernando Eimbcke .
Produced by Christian Valdeličvre.
Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures.
85 minutes.

LVJeff's Rating: 8/10

  
Photo ©Warner Independent Pictures. All rights reserved.

Three Kids and a Pizza Guy

Duck Season, the black-and-white feature debut of Mexico's Fernando Eimbcke, remembers childhood in moments. The movie begins with still shots, fading in and out, of various parts of Mexico City, the locale that surrounds the main setting of an unremarkable apartment. Once settled inside, we join two 14-year-old boys, Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataņo), left alone to fritter away a lazy Sunday after Flama's mother goes off to wherever it is mothers might go off to for a whole Sunday.

Flama and Moko's plans are simple -- to eat junk food and play video games on the X-Box -- but even simple plans can be foiled, as the power quickly goes out. Before they know it, 16-year-old neighbor Rita (Danny Perea) asks herself in to borrow the use of the oven, and the young pizza delivery man Ulises (Enrique Arreola) refuses to leave until he gets paid, which the boys refuse to do on the grounds that he was 11 seconds late for the 30-minute guarantee.

The rather unextraordinary day turns out to be something unexpected and unique, as the gang of four, sans electricity, pass the time with whatever comes to mind in order to combat the boredom, and that includes interacting with -- and maybe even talking to -- each other. Stories are shared, games are played, mischief is made, and some secrets even bubble up to the surface. Everything is presented in moments, with the day represented as a series of events over what feels like a patient, steadily-paced montage. One noticeable sensation is how the movie, packed with numerous little situations, delivers hours worth of activities in the short span of close to 90 minutes.

Duck Season is a humble venture, with nothing more gravely ponderous on its agenda than a warm touch of nostalgia. The movie is childhood recalled as those rare occasions when the memories have cause to stick out. Undoubtedly, countless X-Box-fueled weekends have passed without incident, but here's that one different day, where the time has allowed for a few deeper thoughts and more engaging considerations that perhaps didn't seem like something worth remembering, and yet will have inevitably found a way to lodge a place in one's brain. That the film feels like a memory without the use of an encompassing flashback should be credited to its technique -- the use of black-and-white, the moments fading in-and-out, the spare use of background music, the general quiet punctuated by distinct sounds like a faucet dripping, and even a scene of surreal humor.

Humor is actually Duck Season's primary currency, and it's funny without being cloying or obvious (although it comes close when the kids discover a surprise ingredient in the brownies). This is a film of simple, winsome pleasures, where mature concerns pop in and out only as a clue that the time to move on will fall on these youths one day, while providing the first stepping stones along the way.

©Jeffrey Chen, Mar. 6, 2006

This review also appears at ReelTalk Movie Reviews.

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