Sunday is Flama and Moko’s day to hang out and do what 14-year-old boys do best: nothing. Oh, and play Xbox.
Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego CataÃ±o) are average Mexican kids in “Duck Season,” Fernando Eimbcke’s subdued slacker comedy, and their Sundays are in jeopardy. Flama’s parents are divorcing, and he might go live with his dad in another city. The film chronicles what could be their last Sunday together. Sentimental? Um, not in a movie about early-adolescent teenage boys, no.
With Flama’s mother gone for the day, the boys pour themselves giant glasses of Coke, order pizza, and then challenge the delivery guy (Enrique Arreola) to an Xbox duel in lieu of payment. A 16-year-old girl from a neighboring apartment (Danny Perea) comes by to use the oven, ruins a cake, and winds up making narcotic brownies. The electricity keeps shutting off, leaving the boys with nothing to do but sit on the couch, bored and silent.
Discussion of the impending divorce eventually works its way into the dialogue, but Eimbcke doesn’t let it become melodramatic. Flama points out a painting of a duck hunt hanging on the wall. It is one of about a million things whose ownership his parents have been arguing about. He figures if they can’t decide who gets to keep the stupid duck painting, how are they going to figure out who gets HIM? It will probably be up to him to decide, and though like all boys he prizes his independence, he instinctively knows that 14 is too young to be making such an important choice. He feels what so many children of divorced parents feel: that his childhood is being taken away from him.
Eimbcke, working with an almost dreary black-and-white film stock, shoots everything either head-on or in profile, with few skewed angles or three-quarter shots — a “straightforward” visual style that matches his matter-of-fact attitude toward the material. This is life for these kids. It is what it is. It’s funny, angst-ridden, sometimes a little boring, and often frustrating. Because we like the characters, we feel these emotions along with them. But because we’re detached from them, too — there aren’t many tight close-ups, either; we’re always kept at a distance — we can chuckle when the kids are listless, and laugh when they’re annoyed.
This bemused sympathy is brought about by both young actors doing a fine job with the minimalist material. We can relate to being kids stuck in a world where too many things are out of our control, where if the choice is to sit around and contemplate the meaning of life or play video games, we’ll choose the latter, thank you very much.
Moko and Flama’s friendship is ultimately very affecting, so amusingly realistic and genuinely sweet. They love each other, of course, like all best friends do, and the thought of living in different cities has their poor emotional centers overwhelmed. There’s a moment near the end where their feelings are expressed poignantly and succinctly, and it’s very touching. Of course, in a way, the whole movie is an expression of their friendship. What better way to show you love someone than to hang out with them all day doing nothing?
B+ (1 hr., 30 min.; Spanish with subtitles; )