Closet Stretchers

Washington City Paper | March 17, 2006
Duck Season, you could say, is about experience. And inexperience: Its protagonists are adolescent boys who’ve seen too much and yet not enough. For the first 20 minutes or so, it enacts their soul-rotting torpor all too well. The long takes seem long. The deadpan tone and slow fades of writer-director Fernando Eimbcke suggest a Jim Jarmusch—but without the shivers of irony. And the whole setting, a Mexico City high-rise apartment on a still, hot Sunday, feels oppressively close, as if someone had shut down the theater’s ventilation system.

Patience is, in this case, its own reward, for there is good company to be had within these four walls. Start with the two 14-year-old boys, Moko (Diego Cataño) and Flama (Daniel Miranda), left alone for the day by Flama’s mom and happily playing Xbox soccer until the power goes off. Enter Ulises (Enrique Arreola), a pizza-delivery man who stages a sit-down strike when the two boys refuse to pay him. And hovering somewhere in the background is Rita (Danny Perea), a 16-year-old of maidenly aplomb who comes seeking an oven and mysteriously refuses to leave, applying herself to small-scale seductions and ruinous baking projects.

Duck Season was produced by Alfonso Cuarón, and at times, its leads suggest younger versions of the lads in Cuarón’s great Y Tu Mamá También. Moko is trying to figure out why he’d rather be kissing his best friend than pretty Rita. Flama, we soon learn, is wading through the upheaval of his parents’ divorce. Ulises, meanwhile, is wondering how he got stuck in such a dead-end job and pining for his hometown of San Juan.

Over the course of a morning and afternoon, the four characters scrap and sulk and get high, and though they occasionally flirt with melodrama, the movie never does. Duck Season is slight, and it’s patchy, but it has the feel of both real time and real life. Eimbcke has a refreshingly unsentimental take on the sine curves of teenage lives and an accomplished young cast to execute them. He’s coaxed fully grounded, perfectly natural performances from all of his players, particularly the self-possessed Perea.

Time, of course, isn’t really standing still in Flama’s apartment: This particular Sunday may be the last the two boys spend together. But for now, at least, any rites of passage will have to be deferred. The epiphanies will be muffled. No one will be completely deflowered or conjoined or alienated—or completely anything. In its softly painstaking way, Duck Season has found a niche you never knew existed: It’s a coming-of-age movie in which no one is quite ready to come of age.

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