TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Ivan Grbovic’s exquisite feature, Drunken Birds is a cinematic triumph of the highest order. The storytelling meets and exceeds all current benchmarks, the cinematography is legendary, and the acting excels. This French Canadian picture could be a strong competitor in the Oscar race for foreign language, especially as it utilizes both French and Spanish.
Willy (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) and Marlena (Yoshira Escárrega) fall in love down in Mexico. The problem is Willy works for a drug cartel, and Marlena is the boss’ woman. Willy helps Marlena escape and disappear, ensuring she doesn’t tell him where she is going so that the location can’t be tortured out of him. Willy barely escapes with his life and spends the next several years on the run, searching for his lost Marlena. He is currently hiding out in a group of migrant workers on a farm in Quebec ran by Richard (Claude Legault).
“Willy barely escapes with his life and spends the next several years on the run, searching for his lost Marlena.”
Willy picks lettuce by day and spends his nights calling phone numbers in Montreal, looking for Marlena under her aliases. He attracts the attention of Julie (Helene Florent), the farmer’s wife, who had an affair the previous season with a migrant worker who didn’t come back. Lea (Marine Johnson), the farmer’s daughter, knows about her mother’s betrayal and is furious over it. Within this family turmoil, some very bad decisions are made, and Willy finds himself back in a world of danger everywhere.
As an outlaw film journalist, I usually review much shaggier dogs than this picture. When exploring the jungles of cheap thrills and head trips, one usually has to imagine how a film’s target audience will respond to the work to grade its achievement. However, a work of art like Drunken Birds seems to have the film critic as the target audience, meaning it engages in such masterful filmmaking that it is the film’s experts and connoisseurs who will most appreciate the heights it reaches.
"…a masterpiece of 21st century bucolic noir that will be remembered for a long time."