Did you know there’s a sparrow sitting just outside your window? Probably not - they’re so common that they are practically invisible.
That’s what the movie Bird People is getting at, in its own charming and humorous way.
Freedom Ain’t Free
There are two main characters in this French drama: Gary and Audrey (Josh Charles and Anaïs Demoustier). Gary is in Paris for a meeting, Audrey is a hotel maid at the airport hotel.
To put in order that which is presented nonlinearly, Gary makes a sudden decision to quit everything — his job, his wife, his kids. Oddly, the only time a narrator appears is to set up Gary’s decision a few screen minutes before ... well....
The film takes its time letting Gary quit. There are half a dozen phone calls to make — with lawyers, with partners. Each call is cast and shot on location, given real weight — these are not portrayed as mere voices on the other end of the phone, but real people dealing with Gary for real.
His biggest scene involves video-calling his wife. There is an acrimonious fight, but it is not one-dimensional. After the shock and the anger, they do communicate their frustration and anger in lower voices. Their actions do have consequences in this world. Gary doesn’t get to simply quit and live free, he has to tie up loose ends and live with the pain he’s caused.
Flight of Fancy
As for Audrey, she tells her dad she’s going to college, though she isn’t. She’s just working.
She has to fight for her right to a decent work schedule, against bosses who scold her with one hand and beg her to work extra hours with the other.
The important thing that happens to her is that she spends the night as a sparrow. From a bird’s perspective, everything looks different. The movie implies that a maid is an invisible person, as unnoticed as a sparrow.
Only a few people see her, make eye contact, take notice. A coworker who is homeless sleeps in a car, in a lot where many other people park and sleep. A Japanese artist is attuned to his surroundings offers her food and sketches her, then sends her on her way.
And yes, Gary (his last name is Newman), who has stopped being a cog in the machine, briefly takes notice of her, perhaps for the first time.
There are surely some interesting metaphors happening, but don’t look too hard for a key to unlock the puzzle. Rather, accept the dreamlike tone as a flight of fancy, a dream of what it’s like to be a bird person.