Temporada de Patos

There’s a particular pleasure to watching Temporada de Patos that’s hard to define. As I thought about it the day after viewing the film, it came to me…it’s like making a friend, or maybe even falling in love. Which is fitting because friendship and love and the blurry lines between the two are at the core of the film.

From the opening credits you like the look of it–aesthetically it’s just your type. Simple, spare, a little bit rundown, but beautifully so. You watch it for a while, and it seems funny and smart, a little bit off-kilter, but in a way you like. And then you hang out with it, and have conversations, and everything it says is charming but sincere. Not “hey, baby, I’m so sincerious,” sincere, but honest and uncalculated and heartfelt. You get a peep at its music collection and it’s all kind of weird but good. Unexpected, but you feel it’s the absolute perfect thing at the perfect time. You keep waiting for it to let you down and say something off-putting, or start telling a story that’s overly dramatic or just doesn’t make sense, but that never happens. It all just clicks, softly and almost imperceptibly. And then you don’t want your time with it to end, you want to spend more time with it, and you think about it after it’s gone, and realize that it’s much more complicated than you realize.

That’s what it was like with Temporada de Patos, the 2004 first feature from Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke. It’s one of those rare movies where everything seems to come together perfectly, every aspect is thoughtfully combined and there are no missteps. The plot is very simple. Two fourteen-year-old boys, Moko and Flama, have been friends since childhood. They plan to spend a Sunday together at Flama’s apartment when his mom is away. They have all their supplies, soda, video games, money for pizza…and then the power goes out. The pizza delivery man, Ulises, shows up eleven seconds late, and they insist their pizza should be free because he didn’t deliver it on time, but he says the deal is off because the power is out and he couldn’t take the elevator. He won’t leave till they pay, and they won’t pay. Their neighbor, Rita asks to borrow their oven to bake a cake.

And that’s pretty much it, that’s the story, the story of one beautifully ordinary but unforgettable day. The action takes place in a couple small rooms, almost as on a stage set, and it unfolds in fits and starts, desultory. Ulises, far from home, thinks about how he got to this place, and how he will go from it. The boys grapple with the joys and sorrows of growing up and growing apart, untangling the love they feel for each other from their memories and hopes. Rita makes herself a cake for the birthday her family forgot, and shows them the inexplicably captivating game of guessing the flavors in a bag of candies. Everyone becomes transfixed with a campy painting of ducks, contested by Flama’s parents in their divorce settlement. Some ducks are stuck in place, one flies away. Ulises, who knows about birds, says they fly in deep v-formations to help each other out on long journeys. Meanings and metaphors reveal themselves naturally, with a mix of depth and ease, feeling like the connections we make in real life, like the significance we assign to things on strange days such as this one.

People grow and change and learn about themselves, and forget and start over. Relationships shift, slowly and quietly, and then shift back again. It’s simple, it’s funny as hell, it’s sad but hopeful, and it’s one of the best new movies I’ve seen in years.

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