Movie Review - Bird People

Roschdy Zem (left) and Josh Charles
in a scene from "Bird People"
Female director and co-writer Pascale Ferran has crafted a glorious little film about breaking free and flying alone.

It's ironic because Ferran begins her film in a crowded space, a ton of people on a train. What makes it even more crowded is that Ferran allows us to hear the thoughts and random conversations of these train people. It's a series of voice-overs and Ferran bombards us with them. It not only feels crowded. It feels almost suffocating.

Eventually, it gets to a point where Ferran focuses on one girl, a college student named Audrey, played by French actress Anaïs Demoustier, who no doubt feels this suffocation and crowding. She then looks out the window of the train and sees birds, particularly one sparrow, on the station platform. She looks at it with wonder or jealousy, and even though birds travel in flocks, the ability to singularly escape in air is envious.

Josh Charles (Sports Night and The Good Wife) stars as Gary, an executive at Island, Inc., a company, possibly a tech company based in California. Gary flies in from San Jose and lands in Paris, France. He's staying at the Hilton where Audrey works. Speaking of suffocation or crowded-feelings, Gary finds himself having to stick his head out the window or physically run out the hotel for air, acting as if he can't breathe. Gary says it's an anxiety attack, but it goes to the early feelings that Ferran conveys.

Radha Mitchell co-stars as Elisabeth, the wife of Gary and mother of his children. He delays talking to her, but eventually he sees and speaks to her on video via his computer laptop. Ferran then stops any forward momentum so that Gary and Elisabeth can have an extremely long conversation.

It may seem long, but it's actually an incredible pay-off to great, dramatic tension that seems to come out of nowhere but that Josh Charles plays so well. It's an incredible pay-off that walks a very tight rope, making you understand and possibly champion Gary's actions and at the same time or conversely despise Gary for what he does.

Demoustier plays Audrey, the hotel maid who cleans Gary's room. Ferran follows her as she does her equally suffocating and stifling job, picking up mess after mess. While she doesn't love it, there is a part of her that likes spying or eavesdropping on other people. She doesn't mind looking through Gary's trash, for example, to get to know him a little. Yet, she feels confined in many ways.

Ferran then pulls off the greatest hat trick I've seen performed in a movie in a long, long time. Yes, there is a left turn that is made that is so bizarre and so ridiculous and so incredulous and so magical that it could have sunk the whole film. Yet, it doesn't because it strangely fits with the themes so perfectly.

Ferran's hat trick opens the film so gloriously and gives it such a sense of excitement and danger. It invokes the super hero aesthetic better than Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman. With the triumphant use of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," Ferran also invokes the fantasy and science-fiction curiosity in a simple visual way on a similar level as that song.

Ferran is then able to explore humanity, the literal highs and lows of it, the beauty and the ugly of it. Brief performances from actors like Roschdy Zem (Indigènes and Outside the Law) as Simon, a fellow hotel employee who is revealed to be in dire straits, and Taklyt Vongdara as Akira, a Japanese hotel guest who crafts some amazing drawings, lift this film to heights most films never dare.

Josh Charles' performance is the greatest of them all. He's mainly alone on screen and has to do all of his acting over the phone. It's as good if not better than Tom Hardy in Locke. Yet, Gary is a more interesting character than Ivan Locke.

Ferran also has a special effect that is well used. It's possibly CGI, but some of the most seamless CGI animation mixed in live-action that has been used in an independent or foreign film, even as noticeable as it is.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 9 mins.


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