Mom's gone for the day. Hours of uninterrupted quality time with the X-Box await. Pizza is on the way, and the Coca-Cola's been poured generously enough to sustain a solid caffeine-and-sugar buzz for days. Forget 14-year-old boys, I know adults who would kill for such a Sunday afternoon.
First-time writer-director Fernando Eimbcke's black-and-white Duck Season is sparse in style but full of subtle humor and drama, scented with longing for those weekend days full of absolutely nothing to do. Eimbecke's movie is brilliant not just in its capture of that smell of preteen spirit, but for how he recognizes that in the still moments of adolescence, the little things can be as transformative as the big moments.
Duck Season captures the last moments of carefree play for its protagonists, curly-haired Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cantaño), who are hunkered down inside Flama's home, an apartment in a Mexico City high-rise development. The boys are on the brink of full-scale puberty; they're sexually inexperienced and naive, but not world-wise enough to care yet.
Their plan for an X-Box binge gets thrice interrupted, however, and the intrusions serve to punctuate the fact they're getting older, their family circumstances are changing, their hormones are kicking in, and the simple pleasure of doing nothing will all too soon be a luxury.
The first interruption is 16-year-old Rita (Danny Perea), a persistent, attention-starved neighbor who wants to borrow the oven, and desperately angles for attention from the boys. The second interruption is the electricity, which keeps randomly shutting off, testing everyone's patience. And the third is Ulises (Enrique Arreola), the emotionally unstable pizza guy the boys try to scam by saying he was seconds late for their delivery.
At first, the boys are aloof, that kind of unfazed malaise that they seem to master by 14. It doesn't matter that Rita's ridiculous attempts at baking have made a disaster of the kitchen, or that Ulises stubbornly refuses to leave, threatening to stay till they pay up or an adult comes home, whichever comes first.
Eimbcke delivers the story in brief spurts, and with each episode the characters slowly reveal more. There's an easy feeling about Duck Season that seduces you with the story, which is far richer and deeper than Eimbcke's casual delivery might suggest.
As Eimbcke reveals pieces of the backstory, and as the day drags on, we get an uncomfortable first kiss, confessions, revelations, self-discovery and emotional outbursts. A sleepy afternoon has become a catalyst, a push toward growing up and moving on.
After 85 hazy minutes, the film leaves you with a bittersweet afterglow, somewhat sad but still full of promise.
In Spanish with English subtitles. Showing at the Emagine Novi (44425 W. 12 Mile Rd., Novi); 248-319-3456.
Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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