Poster for 2014 French film Bird People
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Film Review: Bird People (2014)

Oh, to be a bird! In this Cinemaccountability Series review, we’ll look at Pascale Ferran’s Bird People. It’s a film that blends fantasy with drama and stars Anaïs Demoustier, a well-known French actress, and Josh Charles of The Good Wife fame. Read on to find out more—and to decide if you want to watch it!

 

Bird People

 

2014 — 2h08
Director: Pascale Ferran
Cast: Josh Charles, Anaïs Demoustier

 

Synopsis

 

Gary (played by Josh Charles) is an American executive who has just landed in Paris, his first stop on a world tour of business meetings. Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier) is a French university student working as a maid at the airport hotel where Gary is staying. Both are trapped in lives from which they long to escape.

 

After having a stress-related panic attack, Gary decides to leave everything—his job, his wife, and his children—and remain in Paris. This begins a series of events—some very unusual—that will put both Gary and Audrey on paths of self-discovery and bring them together in an unexpected way.

 

Review

 

Écoute, Bird People is about taking flight. Nothing says that more than filming most of it at a Hilton abutting Charles de Gaulle Airport, where planes take off every few minutes. And I won’t spoil the film, but birds play a big role. Birds fly too. See what they did there? Quelle finesse. Like a sledgehammer. This heavy-handed use of métaphore defines the stories of Gary and Audrey, who feel caged in soul-sucking, monotonous lives. Gary is the weary bird, exhausted from his travels; Audrey is the fledgling, desperate to leave the nest. Both want to break free.

 

Honestly, it was a novel idea for an artistic endeavour. The lead actors are convincing on their own, if regrettably underutilized as a pair. The bird’s-eye views (filmed with drones) offer an interesting vantage point from which to peer into the characters’ lives. And some moments are delightfully poetic, like the Japanese hotel guest painting a bird, or Gary likening his existence to a “lump of sugar dissolving at the bottom of a cup.”

 

However, Bird People simply takes too long to develop. The film screams for an editor to hack away at the bloat. By the one-hour mark, only two major events have happened: 1) Gary has quit his job, and 2) Gary has had an unnecessarily long Skype conversation with his wife. It’s only in the second half that the pace quickens with the injection of réalisme magique.

 

Now, I’ll admit, I liked the ending. It won’t impress everyone, but it was engaging and tied the stray narratives of the diptych together, like a tight knot on a loosely laced-up shoe. It was when—after two hours of failed take-offs—Bird People finally defied its own gravity. By then, however, all I could think about was taking flight myself—from the theatre.

 

Verdict

 

Watch it only if you have access to the fast-forward button.

 

Learning French from Bird People

 

Regarding its educational value for language students, unfortunately, there isn’t that much French dialogue in this film, as about half of it is in English.

 

However, there are a few interesting moments when Gary attempts to speak French, and it’s great to see him trying, even though he’s not very confident. His ability to describe what he means and ask for definitions to get around lexical deficits is a skill that all French teachers want their students develop. So, folks, take a page from Gary’s French book!

 

One particularly memorable conversation was when Gary asked Audrey why personne means both une personne (a person) and the negated personne (no one). Bonjour, grammatical and contextual headaches! But it’s a question many students ask, and it was refreshing to see Audrey herself bewildered by it. Now, I just wonder how Gary will feel when he finds out that personne also means quiconque (anyone)…

 

Score

1,5 sur 5 marguerites French Film Review Rating 1.5 out of 5 Stars

 

Trailer / Bande-annonce for Bird People

 

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Looking for more from the Cinemaccountability Series?

Find all of my reviews here. I’ll write them and you bring the popcorn! Deal?

 

© 2019 French à la folie

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