The captivating film Duck Season (Temporada de Patos) takes us on a poignant journey of adolescence, set against the backdrop of Mexico City’s Nonoalco Tlatelolco Housing Development. As the camera pans across the desolate playgrounds and stark concrete grounds, we are introduced to Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño), two friends eagerly awaiting a lazy Sunday at home.
At 14 years old, Flama, tall and wiry, and Moko, shorter with curly hair, embody the unmistakable signs of impending teenage rebellion. Sporting a black studded bracelet and a Rancid T-shirt, they embark on their day with Coca-Cola-filled glasses, a piping hot pizza, and a Halo gaming session to determine who plays as “Bush” or “bin Laden” – names they use, devoid of political implications, just like we did in our carefree days.
Unbeknownst to them, their lives are about to change. Flama is on the verge of moving, and the uncertainty of their future Sundays weighs on their minds. Seeking distractions, they immerse themselves in their game, barely glancing up as their slightly older neighbor, Rita (Danny Perea), asks to use their oven. Their unwavering focus remains on the television screen and the exhilarating action unfolding through their Xbox controllers.
Everything changes when Ulises (Enrique Arreola), the pizza deliveryman, arrives 11 seconds late. Flama refuses to pay him, and a stubborn Ulises refuses to leave without his rightful payment. An unexpected power outage abruptly ends the game, trapping the four individuals inside. Left with no other options, they resort to conversation to fill the void.
The initial transition from setup to the bonding of these characters may seem a bit forced and disjointed. Ulises’ insistence on getting paid is perplexing, and for a while, they all seem adrift, unsure of what to do next. Eventually, they pair off – Ulises shares his aimless post-college life, peppered with dead-end jobs and haunting memories of euthanizing dogs at a pound, while Rita seeks Moko’s help in baking a cake, hoping for more than just a culinary triumph.
Duck Season follows a similar structure to The Breakfast Club, complete with heart-to-heart conversations influenced by a touch of pot. However, its style aligns with a tradition of naturalistic and modest depictions of youth, evoking memories of films like The 400 Blows and Raising Victor Vargas. Co-released by Alfonso Cuaron’s Esperanto Filmoj production company, it shares his approach to coming-of-age stories – insightful, respectful, and infused with youthful whimsy and melancholy.
This film sets itself apart from other youth-driven narratives through its deliberate use of long static shots and occasionally unconventional angles (think shots from inside the oven or refrigerator). Editor Marianna Rodriguez maintains a steady rhythm that amplifies the impact of rare moments of frenetic action – shooting dinner plates with a BB gun, attempting headstands, or indulging in junk food.
Contrary to the prevalent trend of imbuing young characters with precocious cynicism or decadence, Duck Season opts for a refreshing perspective. Flama, Moko, Rita, and Ulises embody the youthful optimism and resilience befitting their age. Trapped within the confines of the apartment complex, they face a world outside that is equally disheartening – a world marred by dirt and loneliness. Flama’s impending move due to his parents’ custody battle, Moko’s intense feelings for Flama, and Rita’s perception of her own neglectful family deepen their struggles. Ulises, though a bleak presence, finds solace in a gaudy painting of ducks, the focal point of Flama’s parents’ conflict, symbolizing the desire for change. It is through this vision that Duck Season weaves its intricate, multi-layered tale of growing up.
In conclusion, Duck Season offers a heartfelt exploration of adolescence, expertly capturing the essence of this pivotal stage in life. With its powerful storytelling, naturalistic approach, and the talented ensemble cast, this film is a must-watch for anyone seeking a fresh and thought-provoking coming-of-age experience.