Drunken Birds is centered around a sort of hopeless romanticism, but at its core, it unravels a somber social commentary about the exploitation of migrant workers caught in the nets of a white man’s world. It has been ten years since Ivan Grbovic's last feature Romeo Eleven explored such lush emotions and this time Drunken Birds blends tragedy with hope.
Drunken Birds is a Turbulent Drama Rife with Heartache
Willy (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) is driven by a desire to do the right thing, a desire that nearly brings his undoing in the end. He is a newcomer to a rural farming community in Quebec, where he is hired on as a seasonal worker. Willy hasn't traveled north for work prospects, he has headed to Montreal in search of his lover Marlena (Yoshira Escárrega) who fled after their love affair was discovered by Willy's former boss. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of getting involved with the wife of a drug cartel boss, which nearly got him killed.
In Quebec, he finds work on a farm owned by Richard (Claude Legault) and his wife Julia (Helene Florent) and, yet again, Willy finds himself caught in a mess. His employers are fraught with drama; Richard distrusts his wife after she had an affair with a migrant worker, their daughter Lea (Marine Johnson) resents her mother for her indiscretion, and Willy catches Julia's eye. But nothing comes of it, not really.
When Lea gets caught up in a bad drug trip that leaves her beaten and battered in the greenhouse, Willy takes care of her, ensuring she has a safe place to rest and warm food to eat. However, Richard spies his daughter leaving the migrant workers’ trailer and he, and a small mob of angry middle-aged white farmers, descend upon the workers in the dead of night to find the man that they believe attacked Lea.
Lea, traumatized by what actually occurred to her, refuses to identify any of the workers as her attacker (since it wasn’t any of them) but Willy willingly informs Richard of what really happened. It isn’t enough to save him from being beaten and chased through the cornfields by the angry mob. At this point, Drunken Birds had the opportunity to take the film one step further, but it shies away from fully committing to racially motivated discrimination that exists in Canada, same as it exists in the United States.
Grbovic does extremely well with painting the picture he sets out to paint. There is a really stunning moment in the film where Willy emerges from the foggy cornfields with Lea in his arms. These are the kind of evocative and compelling scenes he composes throughout the film.
True Things had its world premiere this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. A release date has not yet been set.
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