TIFF Review: Drunken Birds

Willy with a gun to his head

Mexico is a troubled country. Rife with corruption, poverty and violence, often fuelled by drug cartels, it’s no surprise that many see the United States and Canada as a much better prospect for a good life. Much of the continent, especially Southern America, now relies heavily on Mexican labour to undertake low-paid jobs. Indeed, the hospitality and agricultural sectors, in particular, would probably collapse without them. In Drunken Birds, a man travels north on a different kind of quest.

Willy (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) has fallen in love with the wife (Yoshira Escárrega) of his boss, who just happens to be the head of a drug cartel. They separate and go into hiding in order to evade discovery, but he thinks she might have gone to stay with her aunt in Montreal. After four years of searching, he takes a job as a seasonal worker in rural Quebec. Unwittingly finding himself embroiled with the domestic turmoil of the family who run the farm.

Drunken Birds is a turbulent drama which plays with the concepts of power, trauma and love. Willy finds himself, despite his kindness, used as a pawn and a scapegoat in a white privileged family’s game. Echoes of his past life come flooding back as director Ivan Grbovic toys with a number of ideas. Drunken Birds has a wonderful ensemble cast and some glorious cinematography from co-writer Sara Mishara. It’s a thoughtful and intelligent portrait of exploitation.

Drunken Birds screens at Toronto International Film Festival.

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