An airport hotel may not seem the most inspiring of locations for a story of life-changing consequence, but French filmmaker Pascale Ferran’s delicate, compassionate “Bird People” is just that sort of risk-taking existential adventure.
Opening with a breathtaking montage of Parisians in transit, coursing like ants through public spaces, it then settles on two loners converging at the aforementioned hotel, unveiling their lives separately: Gary (Josh Charles), an American on an important business trip, and Audrey (a captivating Anais Demoustier), a young woman beginning a soul-deadening job as a chambermaid.
Ingrained anxiety, modern life’s enforced separation and the strange allure of planes continuously taking off in the background lead each character toward momentous decisions, and in Audrey’s case, a literal leap of imagination and transformation. Gary’s cutting-all-ties conversion is grounded, finely turned by Charles, and in a long Skype session with the wife he’s leaving (Radha Mitchell), perhaps intentionally dull.
But Ferran’s sudden flight of fancy with Audrey — no spoiler here, sorry — is simply a dazzling stretch of immersive cinema, a swooping, even poignant celebration of the feeling of escape and discovery. Ferran’s eccentricity is an acquired taste, but the light, emotional artfulness of “Bird People” — a cry for the senses in a world that so often dulls — is welcome.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles.