Weed between the lines

Temporada de patos is a witty trip into the strange hopes and dreams of teenagers left home alone on a Sunday


Duck Season
Fernando Eimbcke
2004, Optimum Home Entertainment
90 minutes

Reviewed by Georgina Jiménez

LATAMROB rating: ****

THIS AWARD-WINNING tale of a Sunday in the life of a teenage boy whose parents are divorcing is a beautiful surprise by Fernando Eimbcke and its quirky and comical tone has been compared to that of Jim Jarmush (Night on Earth, Coffee and Cigarettes).

Flama (Daniel Miranda) and his mate Moko (Diego Cataño) relish an overdose of pizza and computer games as soon as Flama’s mother leaves them alone in the flat. However, their fun is soon interrupted by the neighbour Rita (Danny Perea), whose birthday was forgotten at home and who barges in to use the oven in order to bake herself a cake. A pizza is ordered, then a power failure ends the boys’ virtual fun and, with their plans for the day ahead ruined, they enter into a struggle of will with the pizza delivery man Ulises (Enrique Arreola). The boys try to take advantage of Ulises delivering 11 seconds late due to the power cut in an effort to avoid paying so, in fear of his demanding boss, the delivery man determines to get his money through a sit-in protest.

The scene is set for a day of strange antics punctuated by the eclectic dialogue and mood swings to be expected from four individuals trapped inside a flat. The icing on the cake, literally, comes with a bit of feasting on “special” recipe brownies baked by Rita. The cake, it transpires after a few bites, contains hash and the icy atmosphere is quickly broken.

Resembling the flock of ducks in the painting above the television set that the four begin scrutinising, they drift into the skies of a joint high until their final landing seven hours later, each character exploring their individual lives supported by the others.

Personal dilemmas

With a few short shots the viewer gains an idea of what bugs each character and how they attempt to solve their personal dilemmas. Flama is angry at his inability to cope with his parents’ rows, and opts for pragmatic yet destructive solutions.

Moko confounds admiration and friendship with love. Rita, who enters the action as a mischievous fairy, ends up wishing for something that will never happen and Ulises, the only adult, embarks on a journey of introspective redemption. It becomes clear that what intoxicates these characters is not what they took, but their own daily lives.

Like many recent Mexican films, Temporada de patos is proof that to make a good movie you do not have to blow the budget but to call upon the experiences of the public to whom it is directed. Eimbcke welcomed contributions from the actors’ own experiences to enrich their characters, a valuable device that proves its worth.

While its subject matter suggests this could be called a teen flick, it presents situations that most people have experienced in one way or another. There is no violence and no colour in this film, and neither is missed. Temporada de patos also has an optimistic message: it exhorts young people to follow their noses at the opportune moment, regardless of the risks. The paternalistic Ulises – a character straight out of a Greek fable – tells us that his grandmother said life is like a rifle, you only have a certain number of shots and he has realised that he has fired his. The pizza man shows us that, sometimes, there are individuals who decide to follow their instincts. Like the ducks in the painting, they start their own flight, and others may follow. Ulises – an animal lover – is the duck at the front of the flock.

In a country with such a high proportion of young people as Mexico, this film explores in an original and humorous way the mind of the youth: it is as much about the value of immaturity as it is about growing out of it. Temporada de patos has that universal, positive quality that permeates current Mexican cinema and represents a real departure from the introspective, nationalistic focus so apparent until the 1990s. It offers many examples of how Mexican filmmakers have definitively arrived on the scene of a more global cinematic culture.

Alexis Sabé’s camera work is as accurate as a duck shoot in capturing the dead energy and boredom of the urban landscape on any housing estate, anywhere. His is that environment so recognisable to so many, where residents live as mere passers-by existing in timid isolation and unaware of their neighbours’ humanity.

Georgina Jiménez is a freelance Mexican journalist