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FILMS / REVIEWS Portugal

Review: Bird’s Nest

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- In his meandering documentary, Miguel de Jesus proves that sometimes it’s more about looking than finding

Review: Bird’s Nest

Presented at the 17th Doclisboa International Film Festival, where it won the MCFLY SPF Portuguese Competition Jury Award, Miguel de Jesus’ documentary Bird’s Nest [+see also:
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feels like a couple of different films squeezed into one despite its relatively brief running time, with none of them particularly convincing. Structured around the director’s final attempt to make peace with his distant father, not seen for over a decade and now struck with a serious illness, the film is part musings on the forgotten past, part road movie, and even part slacker comedy: it centres on boys with barely visible moustaches, sitting in cars, usually while holding onto their film school equipment, smoking their fags and generally behaving as if they were already jaded and world-weary, but instead coming off as painfully young and naïve. Then again, isn’t it always the case?

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Making matters worse is the overly explanatory voiceover accompanying the story, which makes the film come across as a personal video blog we are suddenly watching on the big screen, with the narrator “helpfully” giving us information such as “euphoria is in the air, but I don’t feel that joy.” An argument backed by conversations about the past with people from de Jesus’ childhood, interviewees who clearly couldn’t care less about this past which he desperately tries to revisit even though life obviously is “not the same as it was.” All in all, watching Bird’s Nest is not unlike listening to someone talking to their therapist on the phone, for 80 minutes or so, sometimes even while a tad stoned — which, while occasionally entertaining, can be also quickly become tiring, not to mention the way it gives you the munchies.

Although Bird’s Nest does get much more affecting once the father and son are finally reunited (or at least begin to appear less self-centred), because it is told from the perspective of a young man who clearly positions himself as someone much older, it just doesn’t entirely click – maybe a result of having read Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past one too many times, or just not carefully enough. But – and this comment may come off as a spoiler, so stay alert – what de Jesus manages to do quite well is to show that after years of growing apart, a sudden encounter with a loved one, however needed, doesn’t always deliver the kind of revelation that all these feel-good stories promise. Sometimes, things don’t end with the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything, to quote Douglas Adams, but with someone telling you how to properly water the garden. Though perhaps this is exactly the life lesson we all need, in the end.

Written and directed by Miguel de Jesus, Bird’s Nest was produced by Bruno Corte-Real, Pedro Fernandes Duarte and the director for Primeira Idade.

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