LIFF28 - Bird People - Cinema Review

'Just because Bird People's realism feels incredibly genuine, that doesn't make it an interesting film to watch.'

It's worth mentioning from the start that there is a fairly major and sudden twist within one of Bird People's complementary narratives, and to allude to it even in broad terms would most likely ruin its impact. It's a moment writer and director Pascale Ferran clearly wants to take you by surprise, and in that sense he certainly succeeds, but which unfortunately is ultimately marred by the issues that can be found throughout Ferran's film.

After a relatively succinct first act introducing us to American businessman Gary (Josh Charles) and Parisian hotel maid Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), the film presents each characters' story as a separate sequence. After a night in a hotel plagued by anxiety during a business trip to Paris, Gary makes the decision to cut all ties from his life in the US and start again in Europe. It's a decision some have perhaps toyed with at least once - what your life would be like if you could start afresh and leave everything of your old self behind - and Ferran presents the ramifications of Gary's decision in a realistic and matter-of-fact fashion.

The main problem here is Gary himself. Charles' performance is convincing, but the character comes across as a selfish and petulant arsehole to the point that it's very difficult to engage with or care about the decisions he's making. Business partner Allan (Geoffrey Cantor), initially irate at the impact Gary's decisions will have on their company, soon shows genuine concern for his colleague's state of mind, something of which Gary is insultingly dismissive. From the Skype call we see between the two, it's clear that Gary and wife Elizabeth (Radha Mitchell) have issues within their relationship; but whilst Elizabeth, after her initial shock, shows willingness to work through any problems, Gary is set on shying away from his responsibilities and leaving anything remotely negative behind him for someone else to deal with. The character is essentially a self-obsessed hypocrite: the fact that he's jacked in his career without giving any notice, and yet is content to extend his stay in a Paris hotel, glugging mineral water and chainsmoking his way through cigarettes charged to the room his company is undoubtedly paying for, says all you need to know.

Audrey's story is somewhat more satisfying, thanks in no small part to Demoustier's performance and her character being considerably more likeable than Gary. As stated previously, it's hard to say anything specific that won't spoil what Ferran clearly wants you to get out of Audrey's segment of the film. Ferran sticks with his realistic feel, whilst introducing more fantastical elements, which - initially at least - feels fresh and pleasingly unexpected.

However, there are issues to be found across both of Ferran's narratives. At 128 minutes, this feels markedly longer than it needed to be. Gary and Audrey's stories both contain sequences which could easily have been edited down considerably and would have felt tighter and more successful as a result. Ferran's choice to shoot his film in a remarkably unembellished manner works in terms of generating a realistic tone, but this is outweighed by the fact that it quite regularly makes his film a somewhat bland and tedious experience. Just because Bird People's realism feels incredibly genuine, that doesn't make it an interesting film to watch.

The way in which the two narratives inevitably eventually come together is also something of a simplistic anticlimax that the film takes far too long to arrive at - it's also not the ending Gary deserves, further ramping up the ire his character provokes. Perhaps most critically of all, Ferran's message of breaking free at the centre of Bird People, delivered both literally and metaphorically through his parallel tales, just isn't nearly as subtle and revelatory as the director clearly thinks it is.




Bird People plays LIFF28 again on Tuesday 18th November at 13.30 at Vue in The Light.

The 28th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a comment