There's no boredom quite as free or lively as teenage boredom. I remember many a summer day spent doing nothing with a friend; while theoretically we were "bored," it didn't matter because we didn't really need to be doing anything. Just hanging out was enough. Writer/director Fernando Einbcke appreciates this facet of teenage life; in part, it's this thorough understanding (and its indication of greater understandings) that makes his minimalist feature debut Duck Season such a marvel.
What a joy, what an absolute pleasure this film is! Duck Season is a small film filled with moments of acidity and grace, but that doesn't mean it's slight. The mundanity of the film's occurrences reflects a belief that personal change is a series of imperceptible character shifts and decisions - in essence that your life can change without you realizing it until later. As Einbcke spins out the story of one lazy Sunday in the life of four people — best friends Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño), next-door neighbor Rita (Danny Perea), and pizza deliveryman Ulises (Enrique Arreola) — and shows us how moments that appear insignificant at first can end up having massive import. Duck Season, among other things, is a sweet-natured ode to the ephemerality of now.
Lest I make the film sound like some inaccessible art flick, I should also mention that Duck Season is often really funny. The first laugh comes in the opening scene with the boys' perfectly timed reaction to being left alone on a Sunday, and the majority of the film mines a similar charmingly low-key vein. Einbcke's aesthetic approach recalls the deadpan shenanigans of Jim Jarmusch (at times, this leans towards a middle-school version of Stranger than Paradise), but his worldview lacks the air of hipsterism that infects Jarmusch's films.
Much of the humor, then, arises from disruptions or anomalies in the carefully composed mise-en-scene. (There is, for instance, a hilarious setpiece involving the playing of a soccer video game. The arrangement of the characters — Ulises and Flama with their faces pushed right up into the camera lens, Moko in the background providing support and criticism to Flama and Rita in the far back being roundly ignored — can't help but provoke a guffaw, especially as the scene builds in energy to its perfect punchline.)
The astute reader will notice that I haven't gone into much detail about the plot. Summing up the plot of Duck Season is almost beside the point — it starts with two fourteen-year-old boys in an apartment with Coca-Cola and videogames, then it adds a slightly older female who needs to bake a cake, a disgruntled pizza man (an argument between the boys and Ulises over payment and a presumed lateness of eleven seconds leads to a stalemate), and a power outage. It wouldn't be entirely untrue to call this a film where nothing happens... but then, "nothing" doesn't need to mean literally nothing. Einbcke favors texture and character over incidence, and with the quality of the texture he brings out, I'm fine with forgoing a little narrative drive.