Humans are a peculiar species. We are the only ones that have the cognitive ability to choose how to act, react and interact with other humans given a series of emotional, intellectual, and physical filters (e.g. weighing out the pros and cons of a decision). But what happens when enough is enough? Bird People, directed by Pascale Ferran, provides an examination of two individuals with different lifestyles and follows their experience as they cross paths.
In a Hilton hotel, next to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France, Gary Newman (played by Josh Charles) is expected to stay only a short while for a business meeting as his continuing flight to Dubai, India, leaves in a few days. Gary’s life is depicted as an energy and life-draining situation, constantly travelling for business meetings, and all the while, paying for a home back in the States, avoiding confrontation with his wife, and disassociating himself from the thought of having a kid back home.
On the first night of staying at the hotel, he becomes restless and has an anxiety attack about where his life is going. He comes to the breaking point when realizing that none of what he’s doing is making him happy, and decides to quit everything – his job, wife, and kid, everything back in the States. Of course, when he calls everyone related to his decision, they are not so pleased, especially his wife of more than 8 years. In a web cam chat, a very long, and drawn out argument is generated between them. Cinematically, the scene was becoming a little irritating to watch as the bickering and the ego between both sides felt a little prolonged (although it could very well be a realistic enactment of the type of arguments that unfortunately some couples go through). Gary stays consistent with his decision nonetheless and makes his Hilton room a transitional living space for staying in France permanently.
Also in the Hilton hotel is Audrey Camuzet (played by Anaïs Demoustier), who is in her young twenties and works as a housekeeper full-time. She finds the lives of the guests curious and they amuse her to some extent, but by no means does she feel her life working at the Hilton is her dream. One night she is asked to work overtime on the penthouse floor when the lights suddenly cut off and she finds herself on the rooftop of the hotel.
Now, here is where the film straddles the line of breaking flow of the storyline versus giving the audience a visually interesting experience, in which – spoiler alert, do not read the rest if you have not watched the film and still want to get a jolt of surprise – Audrey unexpectedly turns into a sparrow and we follow her, with a voice-over of her talking to herself while she gets used to being a bird, and looks in from the outside on the guests currently in their rooms.
The filming of the sparrow, without a doubt, is done spectacularly, but the out-of-body, transformation-into-a-bird seemed out of place with all scenes and tone of the film prior. The only bridging aspect of this that links both Gary and Audrey was that, as a bird, Audrey could see part of Gary’s life while peering through his agenda when he was out and she could then identify him when she turned back into a human.
There are hints of poetic examinations of the desire to be without restraint and to analyze our own lives and see what type of person is still able to recognize and be in touch with nature surrounding them (such as when Audrey, as a sparrow, flies into the hotel room of a young Japanese artist and is fed a little bit of food, or when she flies inside the airport and no one really is paying attention to the fact that there’s a sparrow at their feet). However, personally, Bird People doesn’t really bring anything new or euphoric to the table, other than the realistic filming of a sparrow in motion.